Conducting Veteran and Ancient Tree Surveys

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Old Growth Forest 1Both on private and public land, tree surveys are conducted to provide the information necessary to maximise benefits received from trees while minimising any damage they might inflict. Recording individual veteran trees and ancient trees and determining their effect on the surrounding habitat enables informed decisions to be made regarding their future. Inventorying trees by species helps catch tree disease epidemics before they spread and decimate a species. Noting the prevalence of specific species and their health often tells an environmentalist the overall conditions of the habitat.

The terms veteran and ancient refer to a tree’s stage of life. An ancient tree is one that has past its full maturity and is declining in health due to old age. A veteran tree is one that is mature but has not reached the ‘ancient’ stage. The crown of an ancient tree reduces in size and sheds unnecessary parts while the whole tree may fall prey to fungi the speeds its demise. This stage of the tree’s life often results in tree hollowing, falling branches and loose bark.

A tree in this last stage of its life may still stand and be an asset for a long time. In fact, under favourable conditions a tree may survive in its ‘ancient’ stage longer than at any other phase of its life. Determining the fate of old trees depends on the effects those trees will have if they fall on their own and the benefit they present by remaining upright. This is true regardless of whether a tree is in a garden, a park, or forest although the criteria used to determine the risks and the values a tree presents are different.

In addition to protecting property from damage incurred by falling trees, protect trees from other trees and evaluating the health of a habitat, a tree survey is also conducted to protect trees from people. Some trees are protected by law and cannot be cut down without a permit. Additionally, because land development can damage individual trees as well as change environmental conditions to the point of altering habitats, tree surveys are often necessary before land can be developed.

What a tree survey contains:

  • Species of tree (usually referred to by its Latin name)

  • Age of tree

  • Life expectancy

  • Health of tree

  • Physical dimensions of tree

  • Recommendations

Who uses tree surveys?

  • Developers

  • Home-owners

  • Landscaper designers

  • Lumber companies

Tree surveys are conducted by arboriculturalists who label trees with special tags containing numbers. Those numbers refer back to a special summary table which revels information to the lay person. Qualified arboriculturalists will be able to explain their conclusions regarding one tree or a stand of trees in an easy to understand manner. It is their job to use the information gleaned from a tree survey to determine the best course of action to safely make the most of a valuable resource: trees.

Old growth forest photo from Shutterstock

This post generously sponsored by Arbtech. Interested in sponsoring an article on The Inspired Economist? Check out our sponsored post guidelines here.

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