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Title: A review of tree root conflicts with sidewalks, curbs, and roads

Author: Randrup, T.B.; McPherson, E.G.; Costello, L.R.;

Date: 2003


Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: Literature relevant to tree root and urban infrastructure conflicts is reviewed. Although tree roots can conflict with many infrastructure elements, sidewalk and curb conflicts are the focus of this review. Construction protocols, urban soils, root growth, and causal factors (soil conditions, limited planting space, tree size, variation in root architecture, management practices, and construction materials) are discussed. Because costs related to sidewalk and curb damage are substantial, a review of research addressing repair, mitigation, prevention, and litigation costs is included. Finally, future research needs are discussed.

Potential for conflicts between trees and sidewalks/curbs is high when one or more of these factors are present:tree species that are large at maturity, fast growing trees, trees planted in restricted soil volumes, shallow topsoil (hard-pan underneath top-soil), shallow foundations underneath the sidewalk (limited or no base materials),shallow irrigation, distances between the tree and sidewalk of less than 2.0–3.0 m., trees greater than 15 to 20years old.

The results of this survey indicate that cities are spending substantial sums of money to address conflicts between street tree roots and infrastructure. It can be inferred that most of these expenditures are spent dealing with problems that already exist. However, this raises the question: How much is being spent now to ensure that conflicts are minimized in the future?

Future research should concentrate on plant factors, site design, and construction of sidewalks and curbs. Also,more knowledge is needed about interactions between root growth and management techniques, such as pruning and irrigation. Finally, there is need for studies that will assist policy-makers to efficiently allocate funds among repair, mitigation, prevention, and legal remedies.

Publication Notes:

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  • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.



Randrup, T.B.; McPherson, E.G.; Costello, L.R. 2003. A review of tree root conflicts with sidewalks, curbs, and roads. Urban Ecosystems 5: 209-225.


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