An ill wind good news for Memorial geographers
By Janet Harron |
September 19, 2012
More than a week later, the destruction from Tropical Storm/Hurricane Leslie is still being felt across Newfoundland and Labrador's capital city. The debris is piled high in St. John's Bowring Park and Bannerman Park is littered with uprooted trees.
But geographers Dr. Trevor Bell and Maggie Danek from the Department of Geography have benefitted from these unexpected windfalls.
The pair have spent the last 12 months studying the potential of whether or not old downtown trees can preserve annual records of environmental lead pollution in St. John’s as part of the ongoing LeadNL project. Dr. Bell isthe principal investigator of LeadNL.
Preliminary results show that horse chestnut trees are sufficiently old – up to 170 years old – and have the best wood structure to retain the lead signal.
Prior to the storm, Dr. Danek extracted small wood cores from trees in Bannerman and Victoria Parks and around Government House (with permission of course!) for test runs. These cores are the size of drinking straws and do not hurt the tree; however, Dr. Danek says the cores' small size limits the type of analysis that can be conducted.
As a result of the storm, the researchers have been able to take full slices of downed trees in order to do additional testing.
“It was a totally unexpected opportunity,” said Dr. Bell. “Although these mighty trees are gone for good, their long record of growing conditions in downtown St. John’s is preserved in their tree rings, a story that we hope to reveal over the next couple of months.”