Trees as Assets: Holistic Treescape Management

Trees form the foundation of our environment, provide oxygen and shelter to us, and play a major role in sequestering carbon and preventing soil erosion. However, it is often forgotten that like all living things, trees have a finite lifespan. This is frequently overlooked due to the lifespan disparity of trees when compared to humans and the very long life spans of some of Australia's trees within our remnant forest ecologies. For example, Tasmania processes trees of Lagarostrobos franklinii (Huon Pine) that (with the assistance of an increment borer) are known to be in excess of 2500 years old.

Outside these complex forests or grass plain ecosystems, tree lifespans are often dramatically reduced. This is particularly the case in urban environments where competition from the built environment, increased activity and reductions in open space may cause a decline in tree health, vitality and resistance to disease. These factors together with both the adverse impacts of climate change (prolonged dry periods and increased temperature extremes) and the structural failures and resultant wounds that can flow from the increased unpredictability and intensity of storms, all lead to sharper declines in the life spans of trees of all species, ages and sizes.

Trees are an important asset for every business, property or site. They provide a range of financial benefits such as increased property values, enhanced customer satisfaction, improved air quality, and lower utility bills. Trees also provide shade, clean air and water, absorb carbon dioxide and provide habitat for wildlife. Trees are also a useful tool in city management as they help reduce air pollution by absorbing carbon dioxide. Increasingly, trees are being viewed more and more as a critical asset to combat climate change. 

For all these reasons maintaining a healthy, diverse and sustained tree population over the long-term is a vital planning component for local government, land-owners and managers to ensure facilities maintain their ecological, community, monetary and heritage values. 

Legal Perspective

In New South Wales and most of Australia, landowners and managers have a duty of care to ensure the risk to site patrons and visitors is acceptable. Section 5B(1) of the Civil Liability Act 2002 (NSW) indicates that landowners and managers have a duty of care to take precautions against a risk of harm that is foreseeable and not insignificant. This provision, as well as the common law duty to protect one’s neighbour, results in urban trees being inspected and reported on by arborists. These arborists are completing risk assessment methods to prevent foreseeable personal injury and property damage. 

Historically, many organisations struggled to effectively manage them on a day-to-day basis. In the past, the preferred way to manage trees was to cut them down to eliminate the risk. This process has been proved to be inefficient and harmful for the treescape.

The introduction of a more holistic approach to treescape management includes not only the removal or pruning of existing trees, but a move towards considered management of new, successional plantings to ensure the canopy cover is at least maintained; but in many cases, improved. 

The New(er) School

A more science-based, comprehensive approach to managing tree canopy in and around cities was needed. Not coincidentally, the term “urban forestry” was coined in 1965, at the University of Toronto.

Urban forestry can be described as the establishment, care and management of trees in and around urban communities to maximise the physiological, sociological, economic and aesthetic benefits that trees provide in society. 

It is a methodology for creating, managing, and caring for trees in urban communities. It involves understanding the importance of trees, their life cycles, ideal growing conditions and many other growth factors. It also involves creating public spaces to foster interactions among people and nature.

The urban forest concept focuses on the management of assemblages of trees, rather than in isolation, employing both broad arboricultural practices as well as forestry (silvicultural) treatments. To be clear, urban forestry is not the planting of trees for timber nor is it converting areas of open space into reforested areas.

The ideology aims to shape perceptions, so trees and urban vegetation are understood and managed as assets and therefore part of critical infrastructure. However, it is difficult to manage them without proper strategy and knowledge.

Hiring an Arboricultural Consultant is an important step for any council, commercial property owners or managers who want healthier trees, greener spaces and sites that can withstand climate change and other factors. 

An Arborist completing a Tree Management Plan for a site will identify all potential threats, including pests, diseases, weather, and human activity. They will assess the broader landscape, and the trees' external and internal factors in a holistic approach to create an assessment report and provide recommendations on how to reduce the threats, including disease prevention practices. 

How to prevent tree casualties and improve your treescape?

Canopy Consulting are centred on providing best practice advice and bespoke tree solutions. We provide tree management plans to ensure your green spaces stay green or become greener all the while managing the potential risk. 

We use specialised, GIS-based tree assessment and management software called Treeplotter. This allows us to quickly and effectively assess trees and provide a risk assessment. Owing to the duty of care, knowing the risk of the trees and allocating resources and budgets to higher risk tree assets can be seen as a practical solution to ensure WHS compliance for site users and patrons. We can provide graphs of the current tree inventory and suggested planting locations. New planting locations and numerous other features can be identified. Best of all, we can provide our clients with a login to visualise their tree population and ongoing inspections and completion of recommended works actions that may arise from our site assessment.

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Canopy Consulting
Macquarie Park NSW 2113
1300 122 667
(1300 1CANOPY)
info@canopyconsulting.com.au

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