UK: Bluesky National Tree Map is helping researchers to understand the damage caused to underground drains and sewers by tree roots. Using details, like the location, height and canopy cover of more than 280 million trees, scientists at Cranfield University are analysing how the proximity of trees can impact the sewer infrastructure. Working with long term data from Anglian Water, they considered the location of infrastructure assets such as pipes and manhole covers and their proximity to trees and compared this spatial information with records of maintenance jobs.
“Tree roots are only one of many environmental factors which can lead to infrastructure failure. However, tree roots are very good at exploiting weaknesses in sewer joints. Root intrusion into sewers can cause significant problems including blockages and significant serviceability issues. Trees can also impact on other underground assets by exacerbating soil related ground movement through fluctuations in soil water content.”
— Dr Timothy Farewell, Senior Research Fellow at the Cranfield Soil and Agrifood Institute