Soil Compaction Affects the Growth and Establishment of Street Trees in Urban Australia
Gregory M. Moore, Alicia Fitzgerald, and Peter B. May
Abstract: Growing conditions for street tree roots are generally harsh with restricted space and soils compacted from streetscape infrastructure. Allocasuarina littoralis, Corymbia maculata, Cupressus sempervirens var. stricta, Eucalyptus polyanthemos, Lophostemon confertus, Olea europaea, Quercus palustris, and Waterhousea floribunda were grown in compacted and uncompacted soils for 20 months in experimental blocks. The bulk density and penetrative resistance of the soils and height, canopy spread, trunk diameter, leaf area, and chlorophyll fluorescence were measured regularly. Root and shoot biomass were determined after harvesting. Since the bulk density of compacted compared to uncompacted soil was root growth limiting, it was hypothesised that species would have reduced growth in compacted soils. However, C. maculata and E. polyanthemos grew better, C. sempervirens, Q. palustris, and W. floribunda grew well, and A. littoralis, L. confertus, and O. europaea were the worst performing in compacted soil. E. polyanthemos, L. confertus, and Q. palustris had higher canopy:root ratios in compacted soil. Q. palustris had greater mass below ground than above, which has implications for its use in confined sites. In a field study, C. maculata, E. polyanthemos, L. confertus, O. europaea, and Q. palustris growing as street trees were surveyed to determine their rates of establishment and growth under urban conditions. In addition to the soil and tree parameters mentioned above, a Visual Tree Assessment (VTA) was undertaken. E. polyanthemos had the largest trunk diameter, height and canopy spread, indicating its potential for rapid establishment in streets. It was the only species with a larger mean leaf area in compacted soil. E. polyanthemos and O. europaea were the only species classed as healthy from chlorophyll fluorescence but there was no significant difference in fluorescence between compacted and uncompacted soils. VTA showed that C. maculata and O. europaea performed best and that E. polyanthemos, L. confertus, and Q. palustris had reduced but acceptable growth in compacted soil. Soils ranged from non-saline to moderately saline and were slightly to strongly acidic. All soils were compacted to some degree and penetrative resistance was at root limiting levels. The results suggest that careful species selection and soil amelioration for species prone to the effects of compaction would facilitate street tree establishment.
Keywords: Soil Compaction Affects the Growth and Establishment of Street Trees in Urban Australia