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FEATURE: Myerscough College research improves urban forest establishment

Tuesday 4 Oct 2016

Myerscough College are heavily involved in a number of research projects, and one of them is in the area of improving urban forest establishment.  


Dr Andrew Hirons

It’s undertaken by Dr Andrew Hirons, Senior Lecturer in Arboriculture & Urban Forestry at Myerscough College, and looks specifically at resilience and performance using trait-based tree selection. The research is supported by a grant from Fund4Trees and aides what is a collaborative research project between Myerscough College and Henrik Sjöman (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences: SLU).

Andrew says: ‘’This year, the project has made a number of advances. During the spring and summer, Myerscough has been able to collect new data from plant material at Kew gardens and Hillier Nursery. The focus has been on species from the genus Tilia, Fraxinus, Carpinus and Ostrya but has included a range of other species particularly from Hillier. In total, there will be drought tolerance data on 46 species.

‘’These data have contributed to the existing data-set that was collected in the previous year. I have presented some of the work at the ISA annual conference in Texas (USA). This was well received and generated a good level of interest.

‘’During this autumn, wood density data will be collected from the species to allow co-variation in trait data to be evaluated.’’

The project has also been boosted by some NERC (Natural Environment Research Council) funding that will allow these data to be integrated into some species selection guidance that will be published by TDAG (the Trees and Design Action Group) at the end of 2017. This will significantly increase the impact of this work and ensure it reaches professionals across the green infrastructure sector.

Andrew continues: ‘’Trees greatly enrich our urban environment through their provision of a wide range of ecosystem services. However, the contribution trees make is proportional to the health of the individual tree and urban forest as a whole.

‘’Impoverished growth environments, high mortality rates and poor species diversity act to diminish the ecosystem services provided by trees and make the urban forest vulnerable to future climate scenarios.

‘’Professionals tasked with securing the future of urban forests will be greatly aided by robust selection guidance on tree species and cultivars. Plant traits relating to the tolerance of water deficits will be particularly valuable since water deficits frequently impose limits on tree development in urban environments and lead to early tree mortality. For example, the leaf water potential at turgor loss (ΨP0) provides a robust measure of a plant’s ability to survive low water availability since a more negative ΨP0 allows the leaf to maintain physiological function for longer in drying soils. Using a novel approach, this project aims to develop quantifiable trait-based guidance for a wide range of species that can be used by arboriculturists, urban foresters, landscape architects and tree nurseries to help establish a resilient urban forest for the future.’’

For more details about this research project you can contact Dr Andrew Hirons by email on AHirons@myerscough.ac.uk

Myerscough College is proud of its commitment to original research. We believe that our teaching and learning, particularly at higher education level, should be underpinned by strong scholarly activities; the pinnacle of which is the College’s pioneering research programme.

Myerscough College has more than 30 lecturing staff actively engaged in research projects, often working alongside teams of undergraduate and postgraduate students. Relevant research helps to maintain the College’s position at the forefront of the industries it serves, whilst also adding value and diversity to our curriculum content and styles of teaching.

More details of all of Myerscough College research projects can be found here:  http://www.myerscough.ac.uk/why-myerscough/research

by Dave Salmon


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