Three Quick Ways to Kill Trees During Construction

Mature trees have so many benefits we have talked about before including reducing heat, shade, biodiversity, habitat, and character to name a few. When you are building or renovating it is really important to keep as many trees as possible and not kill them during construction. Today we are going to talk about three things you need to be aware of when building around trees. Not doing these will quickly make your beautiful tree die a sometimes slow and painful death. 

1. Damaging the Tree’s Roots

A tree’s roots are where they get all of the water and nutrients from. They have a network of roots that can extend way beyond a tree’s canopy and provide food and support for the tree’s healthy growth. Trees have their roots in the top 600mm of soil. When building this is where most of the foundations, structures, and paths go. Therefore, when digging or cultivating soil under and near trees, you need to be aware you are damaging roots. Trees can be resilient and can cope with the removal or damage to some roots. However, too much damage can significantly affect the health of the tree.

2. Removing or Damaging the Trunk and Branches

Just like if you damage roots. If you break off or damage a branch or the trunk when working around trees, you need to treat it like an injury. Don’t leave the branch dangling. Cut the broken section off cleanly so that bacteria and fungus don’t get into the damaged section of the tree. Damaging trunks and branches can also significantly affect the health of a tree. It can severely restrict the amount of food a tree can make to support itself to keep healthy.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

3. Compacting the Soil Around your Tree

There are several reasons this is such a big issue for trees on construction sites. As I mentioned in point 1 roots are essential to the health of a tree. What happens when soil is compacted is that you squeeze all the soil particles together. This means that the air and water a tree needs to survive are not able to get into the soil and therefore the tree cannot take them out. If you have read this blog before you might have heard of my soil is like a cake analogy. If not read it here.

How does this relate to understanding soil compaction? If the soil is the cake it starts of nice and fluffy with air pockets for the soil and water. Then you smash a rolling pin on that cake compacting the cake. It is not going to be a nice light fluffy cake anymore. Gone are the air pockets and gaps for the air and water. This compaction also means that water cannot even enter the surface of the soil. The trees get less and less water become more stressed and if not fixed can die. So there are three big issues with trees and construction.

There are ways to help and support trees during construction as well, but that would be another blog post. If you are wanting to get a bit more technical there is an Australian Standard for protecting trees on construction sites. AS 4970 Protection of Trees on Development Sites helps guide what you can and cannot do when building around trees.

So in summary if you do not want to kill trees during construction my best advice is to treat the tree as you would a friend. They can’t move and they provide so much more to our environment than people give them credit for. The other hot tip if in doubt is always to get advice. We can help plan around retaining trees however we also work closely with arborists when we are getting a little close to them to ensure we can have a happy healthy specimen for a long time to come. Contact us today to discuss your trees and how we can protect them.