Experts find underlying issues with soil compaction, trees in Lexington

By Danielle Kaye

When looking around Lexington it may appear that trees are healthy. However, there are an abundance of underlying issues that exist.

Chris Barton, a professor of forestry at UK, and Dave Leonard, a local consulting arborist, laid out these issues at the UK Arboretum on Wednesday as a part of their lecture, “Trees and Water Quality.”

Trees play an important role in protecting resources and providing buffer zones around rivers to prevent erosion, Barton said.

Barton has been a part of a movement in Kentucky that has helped plant around 70 million trees in the region since 2004. The purpose behind the project was to help with flooding, improving water chemistry and helping habitats flourish.

“By restoring forests it would help us improve water quality here,” Barton said.

Trees play a critical role in filtering out chemicals that get trapped in the water system. Think of trees as pumps that prevent water from entering contaminated areas, Barton said. Trees can also be used to eliminate hazardous chemicals from contaminated nuclear sites.

Locally, Lexington faces problems with soil compaction, he said.

Topsoil in Lexington is nonexistent and subsoil is nonexistent, Leonard said. He said the elimination of these two aspects of soil limits its effectiveness.

Building on compacted soil leads to many issues. One major issue Lexington residents faced several summers ago was foundation cracking. The issue centered on the soil that the foundation was built on, he said.

“I enjoyed learning that you could plant trees to get rid of horrible chemicals,” said Kay Fisher, former president of the local Garden Club of Kentucky. The importance of Wednesday’s lecture really centered on protecting aqua systems, she said.

The lecture was sponsored by the Lexington city government as a part of an ongoing sustainability series that the Arboretum is hosting.

More event information can be found at