iTree can flag up problems in urban tree population, event hears

The iTree ECO tree management and evaluation software has highlighted problems the city of Chicago will face in sustaining a diverse tree population.

Chicago waterfront - image:Heather Paul
Chicago waterfront - image:Heather Paul

Dr Gary Watson, head of research at Morton Arboretum, told the recent Trees, People & the Built Environment conference that the USA's third largest city conducted a tree survey in 2010 which fed into the package, revealing some unwelcome findings.

Green and white ash together make up over 8 per cent of the city's tree population, but the highly destructive emerald ash borer "will take them all out", he warned, pointing out that the American elm, which makes up a further 3 per cent, is also likely to fall victim to disease.

Other, non-native species including the single most populous, the European buckthorn, he classed as "undesirable" while he described the Amur honeysuckle and Norway maple as "invasive".

And while native oak woodland is typical of the region, this fails to regenerate without periodic fires in the understorey, he added. "It all poses the question, where will the big urban trees of the future come from?"

He added that, though "a huge task", the survey yielded a "compensatory value" of the city's tree stock of $51bn when all its environmental benefits were taken into account.

Trees were found to cover 15 per cent of the city – "a relatively small area, but this is prairie country – trees don't just spring up", he pointed out.

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