A Great Time to be an Arboriculturist as Urban Trees Move up the Political Agenda
The Government has announced a £10 million plan to make funds available for the planting of 130,000 tress in towns and cities in England over the next two years and says that planting more trees is crucial to the fight against climate change.
And as the United Nations continues to issue warnings about the environmental impact of global warming, such as its sixth Global Environmental Outlook report, Sharon Hosegood, Vice President of the Institute of Chartered Foresters whose business Sharon Hosegood Associates is based in Chelmsford, gives an overview of arboriculture and the opportunities that lie ahead.
This is a great time to be an arboriculturist, as we are at the heart of the solutions to climate change. The profession has evolved from considering a single tree and how to manage it, to an understanding of the complex interrelations between trees, people, and the environment.
As a young tree officer in the late 1980s, I did not have a computer at my desk and was rarely consulted about developments near trees. There was a poor understanding of what arboriculturists did by the general public and by other professionals. Thankfully things have moved on enormously, helped by the vision of professional bodies and the widely accepted use of the BS 5837:2012 'Trees in relation to design, demolition and construction. Recommendations' which boosted the demand for our work.
Our technical skills are in demand to find solutions to retain trees, and we are now on an equal footing with other professionals. Today, technology is essential to our work; whether it be for capturing surveying data, using specialist equipment to investigate decay, or to test wind resistance and map roots. It is used to find solutions to build and landscape near trees, and plant in urban areas choked with infrastructure. We have also developed our 'soft skills' and became smarter in every sense.
High profile court cases relating to tree hazard incidents focused approaches to tree inspection, reinforced by The National Tree Safety Group publications. This led to a more systematic approach to tree risk management. Tree related subsidence 'event years' resulted in advances in understanding of the interrelation of vegetation, soil, climate and structure.
A Joint Mitigation Protocol was developed to help tree officers deal with a barrage of un-substantiated subsidence claims. Finally, a deeper understanding of the glorious micro ecosystem of veteran trees has resulted in sensitive tree management, and increased public understanding and awareness.
These changes are within my career, but the pace of change quickens as the need for sustainable urban forestry becomes more than just 'nice to have' to being critical to keep urban populations happy and healthy, and cities functioning.
Technological advances are improving. For example, 3D scans of tree canopies help fully assess how trees can be successfully kept within developments. Drone technology can gather data on woodland health for detailed management plans and to monitor pests and diseases. Research into pest, diseases and soil improvements are being widely adopted and form part of our everyday work. The day to day use of the methods are being shared on social media between professionals to spread ideas and stay at the forefront of technological innovation.
Valuing trees is becoming an intrinsic part of urban forestry, from the macro scale of i-tree and canopy cover assessments of urban areas; to smaller assessments of tree populations. One method of evaluating trees is by CAVAT* which provides a monetary value for trees based on location, size, condition amongst other attributes. This is being widely adopted by Local Authorities and consultants to make a full assessment of the population which helps with budget setting, management, compensation and, more recently, calculating the change in an area over time.
Quantifying what we already know about trees to decision makers helps to ensure good tree protection, new planting and an increase of the canopy cover. Sometimes we need to talk money before others listen.
The social benefits of trees are measurable and recognised. Good work by NGOs, Local Authorities and the Forestry Commission continues, but we need to be more imaginative about active community involvement as part of development. Creative Section 106 agreements can ensure community engagement for new larger developments. This could include tree planting, woodland management, and sustainable use of timber for art and ecology. This is much more than just than the work on the ground and place making, it's about community building and well-being. As arboriculturists we have a role to play in pushing this forward, whether we are in the private or public sector.
The pressure is on foresters and arboriculturists alike. We share a commonality in juggling pressures of climate change, escalating pests and diseases and land use changes, and have to cope with often reduced resources in the public sector. The multitude of threats to trees comes at a time of improving technology and communications. Let's use this and work together to be a strong voice for change. The requirement on us to educate others will take us out of our industry comfort zone perhaps, but educate we must, to effect the change the environment desperately requires.
Find out more: * https://www.ltoa.org.uk/
(This article first appeared in Chartered Forester, the magazine of the Institute of Chartered Foresters, July 2019 edition)
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Notes to Editor
1. The Institute of Chartered Foresters (ICF) is incorporated by Royal Charter as the only professional body in the UK to award Chartered Forester and Chartered Arboriculturist statuses. It was founded in 1925 at the Society of Foresters of Great Britain, became the Institute of Foresters in 1974 and was incorporated by Royal Charter in 1982, becoming the Institute of Chartered Foresters.
2. Its objectives are the maintenance and improvement of the standards of practice and understanding of all aspects of forestry and arboriculture, the protection of the public interest and the promotion of the professional status of Foresters and Arboriculturists in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
3. Now approaching its 100th anniversary, the Institute has undertaken its remit with a determination to support the tree management professions while promoting the proper care and management of forests, woodlands and trees throughout the UK.