During the end of 2013 and beginning of 2014, we all felt the wrath of one of North America’s most frigid winters ever in more ways than one. We experienced frozen pipes, strained backs from shoveling snow, lost productivity and income, and damage to valuable landscape assets. Like us, trees and shrubs also experienced this harsh winter. If nothing else, last winter’s tough lessons can translate into better preparedness for this year’s cold.
Many of you saw the damage throughout the region; trees suffered downed limbs and broken tops or were uprooted entirely—sometimes falling and causing property damage. Nary a neighborhood went unaffected by fallen branches, toppled trees, or a combination of both. Many homeowner associations and communities that were already digging further into their budgets to cover the cost of excess snow removal suddenly needed to pay for emergency tree services, cleanup and landscape repair projects.
You might ask, do trees lost to severe weather events need to be replaced? Research has shown that trees contribute much more than just shade, oxygen and aesthetics. A lost tree is a loss of its contribution in storm water management, noise reduction, wildlife habitat and other benefits to the local ecology. There is an emotional response trees solicit within us, the loss of which can be detrimental to a property’s value. Davey research shows that one tree in a front yard adds as much as one percent to the value of a home. Considering a tree’s value now, would we all not consider taking care of those assets? Tree care is budget protection and it’s cheaper to maintain a tree than it is to replace a poorly maintained tree lost to a winter storm.
There are many arboricultural techniques available in our toolbox to protect trees. Preventative pruning and care is ultimately what dictates urban tree longevity. Only a well-trained, certified arborist can determine the best pruning methods that can or should be done. All trees are different and different species need different types of pruning and care. A certified arborist can develop a plan to meet the needs of a community or property.
When storm damage occurs, trees are quite adaptable and in many cases will survive. However, there are many arboricultural needs that must be met to give them the best chance for long-term survival. Safety to your home and property is ultimately the first concern and therefore it should be a priority for everyone to have a certified and experienced arborist evaluate the trees to make sure they don’t pose a risk to property or personal safety. An experienced, properly trained arborist can inspect trees for defects that may not be obvious to the untrained eye. Trees that have suffered broken limbs or damage may have other problems that you may not notice and such trees can pose a serious safety hazard in the future.
Trees will also need to be correctively pruned following damage to ensure that wounds seal properly in a process called compartmentalization of decay. When trees lose large limbs, or neighboring trees are lost, environmental dynamics are changed and the tree may feel new stresses that have not been compensated for. Pruning can mitigate the chance of the tree experiencing new damage in future storms.
Preventative pruning may be necessary as the tree grows throughout its lifetime and a trained arborist will be able to determine the best course of action in developing a plan for your landscape. Preventative pruning and maintenance invested in trees can save money in the long term. Storm damage cleanup, reactive pruning and removal of trees can be costly. And losing a valuable landscape asset can affect property value, aesthetic value and personal value that the tree may add to your home.
Damaged and broken trees are also more susceptible to insects and disease, further shortening a tree’s lifespan. If a large portion of a tree’s canopy is lost, the tree will have a reduced capacity for making and storing energy. This will make the tree less resistant to drought and other harmful factors. An arborist with a strong background in plant health care will know which trees are susceptible to such elements and will be able to design a preventative plant health care program to ensure the longevity of the trees.