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Protect Trees During Construction Work

Protection of existing trees – heavy machinery and construction work within proximity of trees can cause irreparable damage. According to arborists, fixing tree damage is considered far more expensive than preventing it. For this reason, establish visible and durable barricades that keep trees protected. Young trees of 1 to four years require minimal protection of 30 cm area for each 2.5 cm of trunk diameter. For mature trees, the protected area should span two metres from the widest measure of their crown.

Protection of root systems – trees contain two types of roots: large and small absorbing roots. The large system expands in a horizontal direction and is 15-60 cm in depth. They serve to provide anchorage and nutrient transport. The smaller roots average 0.16 cm in diameter and serve to absorb nutrients and water. Damaging any of the two systems can have a significant impact on tree’s health.

Soil compaction – once a tree is established, any soil changing activity can prove detrimental to its health. With construction traffic near the tree, soil can become severely compacted, thus reducing permeability. Compacted soil significantly restricts root growth and contributes to less water and nutrients. A layer of 10-15 cm mulch of wood chips can reduce compaction.

Soil fills – adding an excessive amount of soil around a tree interferes with proper moisture and air circulation. With soil fills, roots can be exposed to improper gas exchange and build up carbon dioxide. The only soil fills that are harmless to trees are those with topsoil less than 8cm. Excessive fill symptoms include small leaves and premature autumn discolouration.

Direct physical injury – construction equipment can damage the bark in what is known as ‘skinning’ process. A tree cannot possibly survive without its bark, making that sort of damage particularly problematic. Trenching can also physically damage a tree’s roots. Boring a tunnel under the roots is the best way to save them. If trenching is not avoidable, it should be placed as far back from the trunk as possible.