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The benefits of trees in the urban and rural landscape are always greater than the costs.
Unless risk is involved, the costs that many people see - over the benefits of trees - are erroneous in comparison and are almost always manageable without the need for tree removal.
Tree Benefits -
- As giant land plants trees act as pumps for the nutrient cycles responsible for life on planet earth
- Provide oxygen
- Provide food
- Reduce air pollution
- Provide shade - protect people from UV exposure
- Reduce greenhouse atmospheric effect
- Attract & conserve water
- Reduce energy expenditure - through shelter and cooling effects
- Modify local climate - displace heat islands caused by hard landscape
- Increase economic stability & value
- Reduce noise pollution
- Act as carbon sinks via carbon stored in wood
- Provide timber
- Create wildlife habitat & support flora & fauna diversity
- Reduce psychological sickness and stress in people
- Provide visual & protective screens
Tree Costs -
- Pose a Risk
- Shed leaves
- Block views
- Structurally impact on hard landscape
Tree Costs and solutions
If your tree should -
- Pose a risk - Carry out risk management - engage a consulting arborist experienced in tree hazard and risk assessment.
- Shed leaves - adapt landscape (establish nutrient beds under trees which serve to catch leaf litter) to accommodate leaf fall or adapt lifestyle.
- Block views - at worst carry out tree pruning - at best adapt mental perspective to include the tree in the view, in a scale of 1-10 consider the benefit a tree gives the environment, then do the same with regard how you think or feel about a tree in your vision, then compare the two (the physical benefits of trees contribute to life, an emotive or selfish human perspective contributes nothing). Most times a small change in human perception will make a massive difference to the environment (animals, plants & people included).
- Structurally impact on hard landscape - adapt hard landscape to include soft or improve soft landscape to reduce impacts on hard - i.e. suspended walkways over tree root zones, de-compacted soils, optimal growing environments (nutrient beds) and raised containers for absorbing root generation.
As humanity moves into an era where sustainability is at stake we all need to carefully look at our priorities and consider our natural environment as a vital component. Websites that discuss the benefits of trees in the urban and rural environment are almost as numerous as the benefits trees give. When we consider the costs trees pose, they are few, outside of genuine risk situations (which are rare). The costs are very superficial when we consider the much bigger picture benefits trees give. If we have a fixed mental view which overrides consideration of the environment or others then need to ask ourselves if we are being selfish and if that is acceptable?
The most common reason for the unnecessary removal of trees is based on a fear of 'what if' -
The tree falls over ....?
The roots damage my ....?
In the case of trees and risk, our profession has adopted the QTRA* model for risk analysis - under this model for a tree to be considered likely to cause harm, there needs to be a perceived `defect' in a tree and a likelihood that a tree failure will impact on a target. If likelihood falls under a 1 in 10,000 chance of risk of harm then action must be taken. 95%+ of the time, trees are risk manageable without any need for tree removal - that means the reality of 'what if’ is so small that the insurance companies don't consider trees as a concern (because of so few claims they receive involving trees). 'What if' is a concern regarding trees because of the media, (who support negative drama.) Our experience of the Gap 2008 storm (see the ETS/Energex Gap Storm Report) showed us that the vegetation of the Gap did more to protect people and property than cause damage. This is validated by the zero human casualties and the fact that only 21 homes were seriously damaged; the ten most damaged properties we witnessed (roofs blown completely off) were damaged by wind forces where no trees where present.
Hazard Verses Risk
Hazard = something causing unavoidable danger, peril, risk, or difficulty
Risk = exposure to the chance of injury or loss
Tree safety management is a matter of limiting the risk of harm from tree failure while maintaining the benefits conferred by trees. The QTRA system (*Quantified Tree Risk Assessment) applies established and accepted risk management principles to tree safety. QTRA quantifies the risk of significant harm from tree failure in a way that enables tree managers to balance safety with tree values and operate to pre-determined limits of tolerable or acceptable risk management. For more information on QTRA please make reference to - http://www.qtra.co.uk. Most Australian consulting arborists are QTRA trained.
With regard to hazard assessment we use and promote the VTA (Visual Tree Assessment) system as devised by Prof Claus Mattheck of the Karlsruhe research centre in Germany. The VTA system is globally accepted by consulting arborists for evaluating tree bio-mechanics. On behalf of Naturaculture, and with our collective experience, we see and use the term 'mechanical constraint' when referencing tree 'defects'. In nature there are numerous trees with mechanical constraints which do not fail; generally speaking a tree fails at the site of a constraint when stressed either by wind, drought or poor health (through drought and stress management the incidence of tree failure can be reduced). We see the term ‘defect’ as a term that best suits the media as opposed to Arboriculture. Cassian has recorded and publicised numerous accounts relating to forms of VTA he sees as specialised to Australian Gum trees.
If you are concerned about your trees - do not pay attention to media bodies or private companies that promote fear - with consideration of overall tree populations dangerous trees are rare. For advice concerning hazardous trees and risk - employ an experienced independant consulting arborist who is qualified to diploma level as a minimum. Do not listen to tree loppers or persons who will financially gain by removing trees.