Urban Trees

Smart Trees

Smart Urban Trees: Monitoring and Improving Tree and Root Performance on City Streets

A project by Prof. José Grünzweig (Plant Sciences) and Dr. Nimrod Schwartz (Soil and Water Sciences)

Trees significantly contribute to the quality of life in urban environments. Walk down any city street – and trees offer shade, reduce the summer heat, absorb co2 from the air, and enhance the biodiversity of the urban ecosystem. Yet while trees greatly improve the city, the city does not always improve the trees. Pollution, competition with utilities and infrastructure, and limited space are all detrimental to tree growth, thus potentially reducing their overall benefits.

Prof. Grünzweig and Dr. Schwartz have begun to study the intersection between the city and its trees. What effect do subterranean conditions have upon tree health? How do the properties of the soil affect the root system? What new tools can non-destructively monitor roots? How does root health relate to canopy performance? Which practices are most effective in managing trees and improving tree survival?

The researchers aim to develop a tool for mapping and monitoring urban trees and their root systems, with the goal of decreasing tree mortality and infrastructure replacement. Who knows, next time you rest in the shade of an urban tree, it might just be a Smart Tree!