To remove street trees is to remove a landscape.

Mature street trees increase the surface area of the immeadiate surroundings by several square kilometres, creating a larger landscape in a smaller place. To remove these trees removes the landscape leaving the street a small element in a much larger urban landscape. This leads to a sense of displacement for local communities.

Mature street trees are becoming increasingly rare. The majority of new street trees will never reach maturity. This is largely due to mechanisation (digging the tree pit by excavator often leads to soil smearing, the more clay, the worse the smear), combined with the many myths as to what a tree requires upon planting. Far too many trees are over fertilised and over watered, causing a slow death as the roots cannot expand out of a soil smeared hole, made worse by the huge quantity of urine and other pollutants which build up as they cannot disperse through the impermeable smear.

Tree roots need oxygen and in seeking out this oxygen quickly discover the loose material, backfill, around our drains and other subsurface infrastructure, which they take advantage of, inadvertently causing damage and thus helping towards the demonisation of all trees. As does clay shrinkage and a host of other spurious excuses insurance companies and developers have at their disposal in order to avoid tree planting as a requirement. Providing pockets of loose material, vertidrains filled with pea gravel, can allow us to manipulate root growth. It is far from rocket science and hardly expensive. But rarely done.

When all trees face unprecedented threats from pests and diseases, vandalism and often, simply neglect, it is a wonder that any trees planted in the technosols of our urban and suburban landscapes ever make it at all. And certainly any council seeking to save on future infrastructure expenses by felling mature trees, rather than implementing any of the excellent techniques which allow the tree to remain without compromising infrastructure requirements, is certainly not going to bother too much about a long term management regime for any replacement trees!

So when councils and others speak of planting a replacement landscape to the one just removed from you, it is vital to question whether this will actually work? And the need for community tree groups and strategies becomes vital.

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3 Comments

Filed under Trees and Woodlands

3 responses to “To remove street trees is to remove a landscape.

  1. Sean

    I find it astonishing that despite all the evidence we are still in the position we are regarding urban trees. We have a fight on our hands and community tree groups are the answer. To challenge every step that councils make with their tree policies. I for one am sick of hearing councillors shout from the rooftops about how great they are for planting X amount of trees only for them to die an early death due to being badly planted and a lack of after care. Things need to change.

  2. Completely agree Sean – I cannot fathom out how it got so bad. Epping Forest DC and the phenomenal work of Chris Neilan provides an exemplar, which attracts attention internationally – but little in the UK. (Unfortunately this is largely due to scrabble for funding scenario that enables only the most powerful NGOs to win through, and these organisations are NOT community minded of course).

    This is one of the Tree Strategies produced as a result of this work: http://www.theydon.org.uk/Downloads/theydon%20bois%20tree%20strategy.pdf

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