THE collapse of a huge tree in Little Ealing Lane, South Ealing, this month has shined a spotlight on new root-mapping technology developed at the University of West London.

It could give early warning of structurally unsafe trees.

The methods, which can detect decay deep within tree trunks before they become a hazard, can also be used to prevent potentially healthy trees being cut down.  

Techniques used at UWL’s Faringdon Centre in Ealing use ground-penetrating radar systems to estimate mass density of a tree’s roots and map their patterns and layout in the soil.

They can detect early signs of decay inside even the most established trunks, allowing for timely intervention before any threat is posed to public safety.  

Researchers are now working with councils in west London on the issue

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A London Plane tree dramatically collapsed in Little Ealing Lane on Sunday, July 5.

It had last been inspected in January, when fungus was detected at the base, but otherwise it appeared healthy. The tree was due for further inspection this summer.

Cllr Mik Sabiers, of Ealing Council, said: “While the tree appeared healthy above ground, with a full green canopy, the unexpected collapse pulled roots from beneath the footway and these were found to be decayed.”

Prof Amir Alani, leader of the university’s Faringdon Centre, said: “Any tree can look healthy but inside may be rotten and in danger of collapse.

“[Our] techniques allow us to estimate mass density of trees through the roots, which are a major indication of health.”