It is no surprise that trees have been getting a bad rap lately. During the past two years, we have seen unprecedented storms with high winds, causing unpredictable tree damage. People are concerned and as a result they are having healthy, mature trees removed in record numbers. While removing hazardous trees is important, it is also essential to realize the benefits provided by healthy trees. Before deciding to remove a tree, it is important to be mindful of come educated in the benefits a healthy tree can provide.
Studies have shown that trees are an essential part of our urban life. Most people realize by now that trees offer a wealth of benefits. Their shade provides a cooling effect and energy savings. They help with air, soil and noise pollution. They create a calming effect, provide food such as nuts and fruit, and provide wildlife habitat. They supply us with resources to build shelter, make fire and manufacture paper. Trees are associated with childhood memories, are planted during celebrations and are used as memorials. It is time to take more notice of why we need trees.
With more construction being done in many towns, there is an increase in impervious surfaces (driveways, roof cover, streets, sidewalks.) When it rains, the water is unable to be absorbed into the ground and it winds up in the sewer, increasing flooding. The little soil that is exposed has a higher incidence of runoff, carrying the upper layer of sediment with it, creating impaction and causing more flooding in the future. Basically, the water has nowhere to go and we see it seeping into our basements.
This is where trees can help. Tree canopies have actually proven to help with storm-water runoff and protect from strong winds providing a buffer to storm damage. Trees growing adjacent to each other provide a cumulative effect and protect each other and surrounding structures from damaging strong winds. A healthy mature tree can prevent up to 40% of rain from reaching the ground during an average rain period. On top of that, the roots can absorb up to 400 gallons of water an hour, filtering pollutants as it does so. This means less runoff leading to less flooding and clean air and soil.
Residents should be encouraged to support a tree-planting, maintenance and replacement program in their communities and everyone can take the first step to help by planting trees on their own property. Make sure you plan ahead and plant the right tree in the right spot. Most tree issues are caused by improper planning and maintenance. Find out the mature width and height of the tree you will plant and place it accordingly, giving it room to grow and keeping it away from structures, overhead wires and driveways. Use proper planting techniques and mulch properly (keeping the mulch 2-3 inches away from the base of the tree and only 2-3 inches high.)
Mulch not only protects the tree bark from lawn mowers and weed-wackers, it also keeps the ground at the tree base from getting compacted, allowing air and water to reach the roots. Keep the root flare planted above ground and remove all wrapping and wire from the root ball, giving the roots room to expand into the surrounding soil. If roots are buried too deep, they will start to girdle the tree and negative effects may not be seen for up to 10 years. Tree maintenance is important where proper pruning and regular tree assessment is recommended. Trees are meant to sway in the wind and it is this flexibility allows them to remain standing. However, if roots are disturbed by cutting or soil impaction, the tree may be compromised.
If you are considering removing a tree on your property, please consult with a Certified Arborist or NJ CTE (Certified Tree Expert.) These professionals are trained to properly assess the condition of a tree and can help you make an informed decision. Removing a healthy tree should not be taken lightly since it impacts your entire neighborhood.
Although a single homeowner can surely benefit from having one tree in their yard, a far greater benefit is gained for the community with a combined effect of maintaining a healthy urban forest canopy.