Problem: The common practice of scraping off top-soil and compacting sub-soil to prepare a site for infrastructure negatively impacts soil physical, chemical, and biological properties. As a result, trees struggle to establish and thrive in these disturbed urban soils. To this end, we have established a compacted urban soil research plot at The Morton Arboretum to study remediation strategies for improving soils for urban trees.
Goals: The goals of the study are to examine the use of common soil amendments: wood chips, compost, compost tea, biological innoculant, and inorganic fertilizer for remediating a severely compacted urban soil for improving (1) soil quality and (2) growth and health of urban trees.
Methods: Top-soil removal and sub-soil compaction occurred in 2007. Trees (Acer rubrum and Betula nigra) and turf were planted on the 120 plots the following year. Treatments were applied beginning in 2008. Annual assessments of tree growth and soil physical, chemical, and biological properties were performed from 2007-2013. Upon completion of the study in 2013, trees were dug up and biomass in shoots and roots fractions were determined.
Personnel: This research is led by Dr. Bryant Scharenbroch and Dr. Gary Watson (The Morton Arboretum). Research Assistants working on this project include Michelle Catania, Angela Hewitt, and Marvin Lo.
Funding: This research is funded by a grant from The Tree Research and Education Endowment Fund.
Scharenbroch, B.C. 2009. A Meta-analysis of studies in the Journal Arboriculture and Urban Forestry relating to organic materials and impacts on soil, tree, and environmental properties. Arboriculture and Urban Forestry. 35:221-231.
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