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Arboriculture & Urban Forestry Online
Volume 44, Issue 3 — May 2018

The Influence of Abiotic Factors on Street Tree Condition and Mortality in a Commercial-Retail Streetscape

Camilo Ordóñez, Vadim Sabetski, Andrew A. Millward, James W. N. Steenberg, Amber Grant, and James Urban

Abstract: It is challenging to successfully grow trees in highly-urbanized areas, such as downtown commercial-retail districts. As part of a streetscape revitalization project, initiated in 2010, 133 London planetrees (Platanus acerifolia) were planted in structural soil cells along the downtown, commercial district of Bloor Street in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. After most trees experienced severe decline, with many dying, all trees were removed and replaced in 2015. This research reports on an investigation of multiple abiotic factors that may have contributed to the decline and mortality of the Bloor Street trees. Researchers collected cross-sectional data on soil texture, soil compaction, soil chemistry, built-environment characteristics (e.g., proximity to road intersections, pit or bed planter), sunlight availability, and historic data on tree condition and mortality, and analyzed them with multivariate statistical techniques (e.g., correlation, MANOVA, contingent, and ANOVA tests) to investigate the potential for relationships to tree mortality (mortality rate of 46.6% before removal) and tree condition. Results indicate that trees that were alive and demonstrated better structural and foliar condition before removal in 2015 had significantly lower levels of soil salinity and alkalinity, sunlight exposure, and signs of physical damage, suggesting co-occurring and cumulative impact of these variables on tree performance. Modification to streetscape design can ameliorate tree decline in the long term, while education targeted at raising awareness about de-icing salt application and irrigation practices will lessen tree stressors immediately.


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