The Science of Carbon Capture Gardens


The science…

There is an urgent need to reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere to reduce the negative effects of climate change.

Newcastle University’s SUCCESS project researches how to best design and engineer soils to enable them to capture carbon from the atmosphere.

Working with partners, the SUCCESS team won funding from the Natural Environment Research Council to create a Carbon Capture Garden at Newcastle Science Central.

How will the garden reduce CO2?

The garden is a nature-based solution for capturing CO2 from the atmosphere and storing it in the soil.

The garden will also provide a range of other benefits, including food production, wildlife habitat and flood prevention.

In the heart of Newcastle upon Tyne, the garden is a place for communities to use and enjoy, and also to demonstrate that there is something simple that we can do locally to compensate for climate change.

Hottest year on record

2016 was the hottest year on record, during which global levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) passed 400 parts per million for the first time in human history.

What will you be able to enjoy?







Reduce c02 emissions

The UK has a legally binding commitment to reduce CO2 emissions to 80% of those measured in a 1990 baseline by 2050.

How was the Carbon Capture Garden created?

In Spring 2017, the site was levelled and 100 tonnes of dolerite dust was mixed with 40 tonnes of green waste compost to create a new soil 20 cm deep.

Reservoir for carbon

The soil beneath our feet is a major reservoir for carbon – soils contain three times as much carbon as plants.

In May 2017, the seeds were sown.

By August 2017, the meadow is in full bloom.

Images courtesy of: Professor Nick Holliman, The Digital Institute (@binocularity on Twitter), Dr Mark Goddard, SUCCESS project (@Mark_A_Goddard, @SUCCESS_NCL on Twitter) & Phil Hay

Measuring Success

Data is being collected by Newcastle University’s Urban Observatory using below-ground sensors measuring soil CO2, soil temperature and moisture. Above-ground sensors will observe pollinators’ movements, weather, and people.


Newcastle University’s Digital Institute will visualize the data, transforming it into a visual picture.

A LIDAR (light detection and ranging) scan of the Carbon Capture Garden was created using a laser scanner.

The scan collected data – in this case variable distances – via remote sensors and lasers to generate a precise, high resolution map of the Carbon Capture Garden.

Measuring the height of every point, this data was drawn using computer graphics software to reconstruct a virtual 3D image.

The colours change depending on the height of each point above the laser baseline.


Research in Newcastle has shown that when CO2 is removed from the atmosphere by plants during photosynthesis, it can combine with soil minerals (e.g. calcium) to form soil carbonates.

Soil Carbonate

Soil carbonates are a stable and long-term store for carbon, keeping it locked away for geological periods of time.

Removal of CO2

At Newcastle Helix, Newcastle University has measured an increase in soil calcium carbonate content that corresponds to the removal of 85 tonnes CO2 per hectare each year.

Further Information

SUCCESS (Newcastle University’s ‘Sustainable Urban Carbon Capture: Engineering Soils for Climate Change’ initiative)

Newcastle University’s Urban Observatory

Newcastle University’s Digital Institute Visualization Programme

#DataMeadow on Twitter

Thanks To

Tarmac (, providers of the dolerite dust
Newcastle City Council (, providers of the green waste compost
Creative Space Management (, producer of the public engagement events and PR
The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC: for public engagement funding.



We are really excited about Newcastle Helix – it will form an essential bridge between Newcastle University and the local and national business community.