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Investigating street tree decline and mortality in commercial urban spaces revitalized with structural soil cell technology to improve planting and maintenance practices

2016 | Camilo Ordonez, PhD, Ryerson University, Canada and Co-Investigator Andrew Millward, PhD, Ryerson University, Canada

Trees in downtown commercial areas improve air quality, regulate summer temperatures, and enhance retail activity by improving the aesthetics of streets. However, growing trees in these spaces is usually difficult, given the lack of space, and low soil quality, among other factors. Structural soil cell technology can improve habitat quality for trees in these spaces. This technology was used most recently to plant trees as part of Toronto’s revitalization of both Bloor and Queen’s Quay Streets. These trees faced or are facing subsequent decline and high mortality. There is a lack of research on these landscapes and this technology, so it is unclear why these trees failed. Assessing the factors that contributed to their decline and mortality is necessary to guide future decisions about the use of this technology. This will ensure the success of green infrastructure investments, reduce the costs of tree planting and maintenance, and help companies and cities develop sound guidelines for planting trees in downtown, commercial areas. This research project will analyse already-existing soil and biophysical data from these two sites and use multi-variate regression and contingency analysis techniques to elucidate the factors that have contributed the most to tree decline and mortality. The information emanating form this project will be made accessible to urban forest managers and other stakeholders through research reports, academic publications, workshops, conference presentations, and webinars, and train one Canadian student in contemporary urban forest issues.

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