Posted by Bert Cregg
Researchers often get accused of concluding the obvious. At some point we’ve all scoffed at headlines like, “Study finds cell phones and driving don’t mix” or “Researchers discover high heels make your feet hurt.”* But even when a study demonstrates something we already know, sometimes there is still value in being able to put hard numbers on the scope of the problem – and hopefully spur some action.
A case in point is a recent study by Justin Morgenroth, Bernardo Santos, and Brad Cadwallader at the New Zealand School of Forestry, “Conflicts between landscape trees and lawn maintenance equipment – The first look at an urban epidemic” Urban Forestry and Urban Greening 14:1054-1058. Morgenroth and his colleagues surveyed over 1,000 trees in public greenspaces (parks, cemeteries, campuses) in and around Christchurch, New Zealand (pop. 375,000) to assess the amount of damage to trees by lawn equipment. Their conclusion: Lawn equipment is hell on trees. This conclusion, of course, surprises absolutely no one that has ever looked at trees near turf in a public place on this planet.
Morgenroth et al. claim their survey is the first systematic look at this issue and their data are staggering. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of the trees they surveyed had at least one wound. The proportion of trees with wounds was fairly constant regardless of type of planting (i.e., park, campus, cemetery, roadside verge), though trees in parks and campuses tended to have more wounds per tree than trees in nature reserves or roadside verges.
Not all the news was bad, however. Morgenroth et al. found that grass cut-outs or mulching around trees significantly reduced the number of wounds per tree.
So, not a conclusion that should take anyone by surprise, but some sobering data to put some scale on the size of the problem.
*actual conclusions from real studies