It's the arborist's fault if tree issues aren't considered during construction and other development projects.
That's the mantra I follow when working on tree preservation projects. After all, if the arborist doesn't speak for the trees, who will? Someone else concerned for saving trees might speak up, but without the backing of the so-called expert, trees in the way of construction stand little chance. In working to preserve trees during construction, the arborist generally has one of the following roles:
1. Tree Advocate
As mentioned above the arborist is expected to stand up for trees on a development project. It is often assumed that if the arborist does not stand up for trees, then they must not be worth standing up for. Sometimes (often) being a tree advocate means determining which trees to remove. While being a tree advocate, the arborist must also be realistic and not attempt to preserve trees that unrealistically h old up development or that will not survive construction.
2. Specialist, but also a generalist
Wwhile teh arborist is responsible for tree-specific issues, they also must understand other disciplines and how they affect trees. Urban planning, building construction, municipal government, soils, hydrology - alll of these must be considered in determining how (or if) to preserve trees.
The arorist has to be able to communicate and work with others on the project team. The general contractor, landscape architect, property owner, governing body and others will all be involved. These actors expect the arborist to be able t o work with them, communicating issues in a clear way.
Many people see trees as something nice to look at, but also something that can be easily disposed of if they become a minor annoyance or stand in the way of development. It is the arborist's job to educate on why trees must be preserved. Tree preservation is not just about saving pretty trees, t is about maintaining the many other benefits that trees bring to our urban environment. Increased property value is often the one that resonates the most with people, but slowed runoff, wildlife habitat, reduced urban heat islands, carbon sequestration, improved human health and pollutant removal are good ones too!
Planting a tree seems like and can be a pretty simple process. However, if you think through a few factors before selecting and planting a tree, you give it the best chance to succeed and add benefits to your property for decades to come. Here are a few tips.
1. Match species to site
Make sure the tree is cold hardy for your region. Check your soils to determine if there will be a nutrient/pH incompatibility before planting so that you won't have to correct it later. Look at what trees do well in your area.
2. Leave space for growth
Trees grow, of course, but it seems that people sometimes forget about this. I recently completed a management plan for a homeowners' association in Illinois where about 300/1000 trees have outgrown their space only 10 years after planting. Trees don't give us much benefit until they reach maturity, so give them the space to do so!
3. Inspect for defects
Examine the tree at the nursery or garden center. Look for the following:
Good form - does it have a good central leader? Broken branches?
Signs of disease/insects
Healthy root flare
Basically, start with a healthy tree to minimize problems later.
4. Proper planting hole
Dig the hole just deep enough to plant the root ball or bare roots. The root flare should sit a couple inches above grade once planted. Dig the hole about 3X the root ball width. Backfill with soil of similar texture to the surrounding soil.
5. Post planting care
Make sure to water the tree regularly after planting. A lack of water is the number one reason why newly-planted trees don't survive.
You should also place mulch around the base of the tree, but not touching it. Mulch against the trunk can lead to rot on the trunk and root problems down the line. A 3-4 inch layer of mulch is best. Replenish as needed.
Only stake the tree if it can't stand on its own, or if vandalism is a concern. If you must stake, remove it after one growing season.
This week I evaluated a number of trees affected by emerald ash borer in the suburbs of Chicago, which reminded me of a guest blog post I wrote a few years back for a colleague's website. It covers a little bit about my past and my thoughts on the future effects of EAB around Chicago.
I developed an appreciation for trees and the environment at an early age. I grew up spending countless hours in the woods, lakes and parks of central and northern Wisconsin. Doing so led me to appreciate the benefits that trees bring to people - beauty, clean air and attraction of wildlife, among others.
Having now lived in Chicago for about 9 years, I have realized that many of my fellow urbanites didn’t have as much opportunity as I did growing up to experience nature. While many of my fellow Chicagoans do value the environment a great deal, it seems that this value has come from a different source. I believe that people begin to appreciate the environment for one of two reasons – they spend time in the outdoors and develop appreciation through their experience or they witness or learn about some sort of environmental degradation. Many Americans, especially urbanites, seem to get this value from the latter.
One such environmental challenge upon us today is the emerald ash borer (EAB). As most people reading this probably already know, EAB is an exotic insect that has destroyed millions of ash trees in North America and threatens to destroy millions more. It was first discovered affecting ash trees in Michigan around 2002, and has since spread throughout the U.S. and Canada. Many scientists predict that the borer could wipe out ash trees throughout North America, in both urban and rural areas. This is mainly a man-made tragedy, as the pest was most likely introduced to the United States in shipping containers from the Far East. When it came aground, it found a plethora of trees that had no natural resistance to it.
While emerald ash borer may decimate ash trees in our urban and rural forests, we need to look at this event not for the damage it will cause but for the opportunity it presents. I believe that, through increased awareness and improved management, our urban forest could be better off as a result of emerald ash borer. Yes, the damage caused by this insect will be catastrophic. But if it causes people to look at the underlying causes of the tragedy and try to prevent similar events from happening in the future, then we could be better off as a result. The attention the borer is getting could also cause many people to gain greater general appreciation for trees and the environment as a whole.
It is often said that modern urban forestry was borne out of a tragedy similar to EAB. Dutch elm disease killed millions of elm trees in this country, beginning in the 1930s. Many cities saw almost their entire tree canopy lost to the disease. This mass loss of trees made people appreciate their trees once they were gone, and led many to realize that we should care for our trees before such a tragedy could strike again. However, while the disease led to increased management and awareness of the benefits of our urban forest, we did not completely learn the lessons the epidemic should have taught us. We still took care of our trees in a way that allowed devastating events such as EAB to occur.
You may ask what you can do to manage EAB on your property or in your neighborhood. High value ash trees that aren't infected or haven't begun to show much stress from the borer can be treated and potentially saved. However, it isn't economical to save many ash trees. Most will be lost. Instead, the best thing you can do is plan for the future. Use EAB as an opportunity to show why and how we should prepare our urban forest to be resilient against similar pests in the future. Many people have already begun to do exactly this. You can get more detailed information on management options at www.emeraldashborer.info.
I became an arborist because of my love for the environment and my desire to educate others about the natural aspects of cities and to improve the relationship between nature and city. I see the presence of emerald ash borer as an opportunity to do just that. Let’s continue to treat the issue as a chance to better our urban forests, parks and urban areas in general. Plant more trees. Educate your neighbor on emerald ash borer and the benefits of trees and other environmental assets.
Let’s hope that in the future we won’t need to rely so much on environmental hardships to get people to appreciate the natural world around them. But until then, let's use opportunities like EAB to help people appreciate the environmental assets that surround them every day.