Looking for a win-win in the trees vs. pavement conflict

by Hallie Dozier, PhD
Louisiana State University
TREE Fund Research Committee Chair

Our world is urbanizing. Many of the world’s cities have over 20 million inhabitants, and others are approaching 40 million! 100 years ago – about the time when many of today’s mature trees were planted – roughly one in seven people lived in a city. Today about half of the world’s population resides in urban areas. Successful cities need reliable infrastructure (utilities, roads, sidewalks etc.), but they also want and need trees to make their cities livable. Therein lies the rub: trees + pavement often leads to conflicts: sometimes the trees win, and sometimes the pavement wins.

Dr. Alessio Fini, DiSPAA (Università di Firenze, Italy), winner of ISA’s Early-Career Scientist Award in 2014, is increasing our understanding of how trees and hardscapes interact and how we can improve the odds for their successful coexistence in congested urban environments. In 2014 Dr. Fini was awarded a $100,000 TREE Fund Research Fellowship for his Long term assessment of the effects of impervious, permeable and porous pavements on the underlying soil and on established trees. His multi-year investigation will examine how different types of hardscapes (pavement) affect urban soils in ways that also affect the trees: soil moisture, texture, chemical composition and temperature. This work will lay the foundation for further research into how to successfully integrate pavement and trees in urban settings, which require both in order to thrive.