Hello again, Ryan Tartisel here talking about trees. I am writing this series based on what I am currently learning about Arboriculture, the study of trees. I recently moved to Connecticut and will be focusing on trees in my local environment. Everything I have written here is based on my research over the past few months on the topic and must not be interpreted as fact or law, I am learning a lot and simply want to pass on my findings as I see them. I encourage you to email me questions, or post comments as you see fit, Thanks!
I have noticed something going on with our trees here in the north-east. Around buildings and structures that, by my untrained eye, appear to be built within the last 5-10 years, trees seem to be declining.
It is obvious to me why it is appealing to construct something like a house, business, or complex on a wooded lot or surrounded by trees. And by the way I see so may structures placed, it seems that it was obvious to others as well that trees should play an important role in the life of those who use the land. I can imagine that it is a bit unnerving to have built something surrounded by trees only to have them fail many years before nature should take its normal course.
I started to think that there must be a connection between newly constructed buildings and developments, and the decline of their surrounding trees. As it turns out according to the International Society of Arborists, construction damage is real threat to the life of trees and in many circumstances can be avoided.
Like with many issues that trees face, there are some great sources for information out there about protecting your trees from construction damage. Normal construction damage that I think of is physical damage of trees, maybe backing a bulldozer into the trunk or swinging a crane into the canopy. This type of damage for the most part would probably be apparent right away.
The damage that can severely affect trees that might go initially noticed are things like cutting roots, smothering roots, soil compaction, or unforeseen sun and wind exposure.
Roots are commonly disturbed durning construction while digging a trench, or installing underground utilities. Even if preventative measures are taken, roots are often spread out considerably farther than most people think. It is important to remember, while it may seem like you may be far enough away from a tree to cause it damage you may still be affecting it. Without talking to a professional it is very difficult to know exactly what is the best way to protect your trees from construction damage.
Huge machinery is necessary to build almost anything, the movement of earth movers and bulldozers over the roots of trees can often damage the root system and compact the soil. If soil is compacted roots are unable to continue to spread out and water is more likely to sit on the surface as opposed to drain into the soil. This can lead to the starvation of the tree.
I think what is most surprising to me is the delicate nature of trees, for most of my life I always viewed them as strong plants that were fairly tolerant to anything that humans could do to them. It is only now in my quest to have a better understanding of trees, do I realize that seemingly minor actions of people can greatly affect the long term health of our trees.