Working with the European Plant Science Laboratory (EPSL) in North Wales, Marishal Thompson Group has carried out trials and "blind" sampling to demonstrate an ability to differentiate accurately between the trees. The research is critical, according to head of insurance services Keiron Hart, because of the difficulty in distinguishing between willow and poplar.
He said: "Identification of roots is a key component of any subsidence claim involving trees. This approach ensures that when trees need to be removed or pruned, they are the right ones.
"Additionally, accurate species identification allows determination of liability and effective recovery of costs."
Marishal Thompson believes that it has found a cost-effective method of identifying which tree is causing the problem, which could lead to lower felling rates.
Arboricultural consultant Jeremy Barrell said the research could be an effective way of limiting loss of trees in urban environments.
"Every tree matters in the wider scheme of things," he explained. "It is a very serious issue, so to lose trees without proper evidence is not good or an effective way of working. To be able to identify definitively which trees are causing the damage would be useful."
JCA Arboricultural Consultants had been working on a similar project to attempt to find an accurate method of differentiating between willow and poplar. The firm's research was focused on DNA, however, and managing director Jonathan Cocking said the major issue was cost.
"To do it by DNA can be very expensive. Willow and poplar are some of the most common species causing subsidence, but can be difficult to identify microscopically."
Hart added: "Until now, traditional microscopic techniques have been unable to tell (willow and poplar) apart. But this saves time, money and trees."