Selecting trees that flourish in urban settings

A Michigan State University associate professor leads a team of researchers to identify tree species that are adaptable to the stress of urban settings.

Bert Cregg and his team planting trees in Detroit.

Bert Cregg, associate professor in the Michigan State University Department of Horticulture, and a team of MSU researchers are studying trees in urban settings with an eye on identifying species that are adaptable to increasing stress. It is critical for landscapers and urban foresters to consider climate projections when planting trees.

With funding from MSU Project GREEEN (Generating Research and Extension to meet Economic and Environmental Needs) and the Michigan Nursery and Landscape Association, among others, Cregg’s group first embarked on the project in 2012.

In a greenhouse study, the trees were divided into three climate scenarios: average temperature for the region, 5 degrees Celsius warmer and 10 degrees Celsius warmer. In the field phase of the project, 80 trees, 10 of each type, were planted at Lafayette Park on Detroit’s east side, while another identical 80 were planted in the city’s St. Aubin Avenue median.

Under hotter conditions, some cultivars responded by developing small pores under the leaves that are vital to plants’ ability to regulate their temperature through transpiration.

Cregg’s team installed data loggers and sensors at each location to measure temperature and relative humidity, and the group is continuing to monitor long-term growth.

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