Saturday, July 20, 2024

Trees make things worse off…when we interfere with them

Trees, our friends that give us oxygen, soak up carbon, provide building materials and food, and sustain micro-ecosystems, are a big problem when we misuse them, according to architect Greg Blain.

Without trees, we probably wouldn’t survive. So why the misuse? Likely greed and ignorance, he wrote on

“Poor design of urban treescapes means lower quality of life for people”, he said.

“Poor treescape design, or total lack of it, comes from ignorance. Quality treescape design is founded in deep knowledge of how particular trees perform in specific locations. Proper tree selection is a big part of competent treescape design. Here are some of basic considerations of treescape design:

  • Location affects tree selection, including geography, climate, soil type, natural local history of the species, and wildlife the tree species naturally helps support.
  • What fruit, if any, does the tree produce? Will it be consumed by locals? Will it attract wildlife of a type which may create vermin-related problems for local people? Or will fallen, uncollected fruit become a health hazard?
  • Tree size is an obvious consideration.
  • Will the tree’s root system damage in-ground and on-ground infrastructure?
  • Trees absorb a lot of ground moisture which can alter soil volume and strength. Soil differential settlement can damage close-by structures, starting at the footings.
  • Tree litter (fruit, leaves, seeds, branches, bark) need to be considered. Falling matter or rotting on-ground litter can be hazardous to pathways, carparking, building gutters, decks, playgrounds, roads or kerbs.
  • Large trees can block views or cause overshadowing for neighbours.
  • Rectifying the effect of previously poorly selected trees, now grown to maturity, is expensive. Tree removal-replacement is best done in autumn so as not to disrupt bird nesting season, and done incrementally to allow wildlife dependent on the trees, to adapt.

Quality treescape design is complex and should only be done by competent, qualified designers. However, laws enforcing this are weak. Too many trees in the urban environment exist as thoughtless mistakes, leaving things worse off.

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