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Urban Soil Management & Remediation

Trees at Risk

Any urban tree is at risk for poor soil conditions. Over 50 percent of a tree’s living tissue is found below the ground. The active roots, those providing the vast majority of a tree’s water and nutrients, are located primarily in the top 12” of soil. Urban soils are often compacted, low in oxygen, poorly drained, and low in organic matter. In addition, factors such as construction damage, soil compaction, competition from turf grass, and other human activities can greatly impact the health of roots as well as the health of the soil itself.

Natural organic matter cycling is disrupted in most urban soils, and soil nutrients in urban sites are difficult for the tree to utilize. As a result, urban trees live an average of 1/4 as long and have 1/3 the stored energy of a tree growing in a natural forest area.

The productivity of any urban soil is determined by the site characteristics (soil texture, structure, drainage, etc.) and the quality of the organic matter available for decomposition. Many urban soils are not well suited for tree root growth.

Soil Root Growth