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Soils & Trees Conference Speaker Spotlights

Last Updated:  19/07/2018

Ahead of the Conference in September, we bring you closer to the stories behind what inspires our accomplished speakers and how their sessions will enlighten us.

Over the past few years our knowledge of what goes on underground and how it affects trees has rapidly developed. Breakthroughs in science and technology have allowed us to explore soils in ways which were previously impossible.

Following an overwhelming response to the call for papers, ‘Soils & Trees – Standing your Ground’ will take delegates on a journey through these new discoveries and developments.

Mycorrhizal Masters

Professor Lynne Boddy

Professor Lynne Boddy

Tree-related fungi and soil

Monday 10th September 11.40am

Mondays’ sessions will be delivered by a diverse range of experts including the acclaimed Lynne Boddy, a regular guest BBC Radio 4s’ ‘The Life Scientific’ and numerous TV programmes.

Lynne is one of many must-see speakers this year and will be well known to many AA members, following her hugely popular ‘Tree Science Day’ training events in recent years. Having taught and researched into the ecology of wood decomposition for 40 years, in her own words Lynne has always been fascinated by the “exciting world of fungal battles, and life and death struggles, sometimes operating on a microscopic scale and sometimes over very many square metres. As well as scientifically challenging and environmentally of massive consequence (without them the terrestrial ecosystems of planet Earth would not work), mycelia and their interactions have a huge aesthetic appeal.”

Lynne’s talk will take you on a journey through soil, introducing you to the dramatic ways in which decomposer cord-forming basidiomycetes respond to new resources and to interactions with other organisms by remodelling mycelial architecture and taking up and translocating nutrients. It will also help us realise the implications of mycorrhizal mycelial networks interconnecting trees.

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Professor Marc-André Selosse

Professor Marc-André Selosse

Trees and functioning soil microbiology – implications for health, decline and resilience

Monday 10th September 12:10am

Lynne would be a tough act to follow for anyone, but the impressive resume of Professor Marc-Andre Selosse suggests he’ll be able to provide us the perfect Mycorrhizal main course before lunch on day one. In 2012 he was appointed Professor at the Museum of Natural History in Paris and has a great passion for teaching and research. Having produced over 100 outreach papers and a textbook on symbiosis, Marc-André says he is committed to the popularization of science “It still makes me very happy when I can raise a student's interest and excitement for natural phenomena. In research every idea is questionable or falsifiable, every phenomenon can potentially be included in a general interpretation You can (and you should) have doubts and test ideas.”

His research focuses on mycorrhizal symbioses. More specifically, his team has an interest in fungal populations and communities, with a specific focus on the ecology of mycorrhizal networks.

Professor Selosse will reveal how trees are deeply dependant on microbial life to fulfil most of their functions and why soil especially is a major reservoir of microbial partners impacting the life of trees.

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Soil Problem Solvers

Nelda Matheny

Nelda Matheny

Planting and managing trees in engineered soils and constructed spaces

Tuesday 11th September 14:35pm

As part of the afternoon session which focuses on engineered solutions for constrained environments, soil quality specialist Nelda Matheny will impart her experience in the San Francisco Bay Area with planting and maintaining trees in engineered soils, modified pavement treatments, planting areas over structure, and in storm water management areas.

Nelda has been instrumental in developing tree management programs for a variety of public agencies and private companies. During a decorated career in arboriculture Nelda has won the ISA President’s Award, the Alex Shigo Award for Arboricultural Education, to name just a few. As well as soils, she specializes in water quality assessment, plant problem diagnosis, landscape management, tree risk assessment and tree preservation during construction.

Speaking on her passion for arboriculture she said “What’s fascinating to me is that trees are influenced by a myriad of factors even though they’re a static organism. Because trees don’t talk, it sometimes takes a Sherlock Holmes kind of effort to try and figure out what is wrong with them. In the 25 years that I've been in business there has been an incredible revolution in concerns about tree safety and how we approach evaluations”

The mixed uses of urban trees are often dealt with by engineering the spaces in ways that may compromise efforts to increase canopy cover and maximize benefits they provide; Nelda will offer us insights and solutions that utilise engineered soils based on her experience since founding the California consultancy ‘Hortscience’ in 1983.

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Björn Embren

Björn Embren

The search for the indestructible urban soil: Stockholm black skeletal soils with biochar

Tuesday 11th September 15:40pm

Björn Embren has been a Tree Officer in Stockholm since 2001 and a driving force in the city’s development of plant beds for trees in paved areas.

The Stockholm Biochar Project converts plant waste into biochar, which is used to encourage plant growth. The process sequesters carbon from the atmosphere (equivalent to emissions from 3500 cars) and will deliver a return, within 8 years, on the city’s investment of just over $1 million.

After winning the Mayors Challenge in 2014, the City of Stockholm built its own plant in 2016, to produce biochar from garden waste submitted to the city's recycling facilities. The produced biochar is used in Stockholm plant beds.

Björn said that they were using biochar before it became a buzzword “We actually started using biochar with the city’s trees six months before we knew its name. We just thought it was simply charcoal, nothing else. It wasn’t until 2009, when I read a journal article about biochar, that I realized our “charcoal” was something special with many benefits we hadn’t ever considered. Having a name for it allowed us to learn more about biochar, both online and through academic contacts, and in 2011 we identified the potential to connect biochar with the existing recycling facilities in Stockholm.”

“When you give people the extra information about how to use biochar, it’s simple for them to understand the benefits. Plus, biochar gives people hope. It’s a way that you, through your individual effort, can do something about climate change. And that’s a nice thing.”

Bjorn will explain the science behind his solution as well as its numerous positive impacts. Including how it avoids damage on soils both during the construction phase and during the expected life of the plant beds by using sorted stable materials as supporting elements, which result in a substrate that almost becomes an indestructible soil mixture.

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