In general, people love trees and for many reasons. They provide many benefits for our communities and homes. Functional benefits include cooling properties with shade, improved air quality and water economic values; the bigger the tree, the better the benefits. In addition, there are emotional attachments to these large, elder statesmen of the urban forest. Trees in the neighborhood which have seen many generations grow up and prosper have become iconic and bold statements of sustainability and prosperous communities. All of this adds up to the fact that trees are important!
However, as trees get older, they get larger. Inherent issues can arise with health and stability. A walk in the woods will find very large trees in a natural setting that provides the conditions and environment for a longer lifespan. However, trees in urban areas encounter many different and often hostile conditions. Poor soils, extreme heat and drought and people-pressure shorten the lifetime of trees dramatically. According to researchers, the average life of any tree in urban conditions is less than 40 years. Often decline, dieback and pest issues weaken the tree or storms damage these trees resulting in risk situations.
This brings us to an often difficult decision about whether or not to save that large, heritage tree which has meant so much to so many. Sometimes those decisions can be challenging. However, it is critical to use common sense and keep public safety in mind during the process. It’s often not an easy matter for public officials to determine because of the sentiments involved in the decision. However, they are bound by levels of acceptable risk which is of primary importance. We need to weigh the risk involved and the costs with maintaining a tree which perhaps should not be saved or sustained beyond its capabilities. We must take a close look at the body language of the tree and make a sound decision on saving or replacing based on safety. Contact an International Society of Arboriculture Certified Arborist for information on tree health and safety issues. A list of certified arborists is available at www.isa-arbor.com/faca/findArborist.aspx.