Protecting Rome from falling trees

The American University of Rome supports an innovative new project to survey the safety of Rome's trees using Ground Penetrating Radar.

Those based in Rome will remember the massive storms that swept across Italy and caused damage and destruction in the city in late October, with fallen trees being particularly hazardous. The dangers posed by these storms has resulted in the establishment of a project to survey Rome's trees using modern Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR).
This innovative project is supported and led by The American University of Rome (AUR), CREA (Consiglio per la ricerca in agricoltura e l’analisi dell’economia agraria), and the Canadian company, Sensors & Software Inc, and continues the pioneering research of AUR professors Pier Matteo Barone and Carlotta Ferrara (also a member of CREA), alongside Dieter Grieß (Sensors & Software, Inc).
From 20-23 November, trees in three locations in Rome will be analysed to test the validity of the GPR technique: on the Via di Valle delle Camene (near the Baths of Caracalla), on the Viale Beata Vergine del Carmelo (in the south-eastern Mostacciano district), and in the garden of the campus of The American University of Rome on the Gianicolo hill.Ground-Penetrating Radar (GPR) is a fast-developing technology able to produce 3D scans of material lying below the surface of the ground and of the state of tree trunks above ground. Of widespread use in archaeological and geological projects, its use in understanding the health of trees and the disposition of their roots is being spearheaded by Barone and Ferrara. In this case, GPR will be used to determine the condition of the trunks and the placement of the roots of the target trees.
A huge amount can be understood from the findings this will produce. Should the results indicate damage to the trees that could cause them to fall, or root growth that might damage the surface of the ground, plans can be made to mitigate these risks to avoid health hazards and disruption. The GPR scans are also useful in monitoring carbon dioxide levels and climate change, as the mass and distribution of tree roots are affected by these factors.
In Rome, the tree-lined streets add to the beauty of the city but, as proved by the damage they caused during recent storms, they need close monitoring. A major benefit of using GPR technology in surveys of this kind is how non-invasive and efficient it is, as it sidesteps the costly and disruptive process of extensive excavations that would otherwise be necessary to obtain this data. For this reason, GPR has also become a crucial tool in archaeological excavations.  
With extreme weather expected to occur ever more frequently in correlation with climate change, and with such a complex infrastructure accumulated over the millennia, this project could cement GPR as an indispensable tool for Rome in the years to come.