In my previous article I reviewed the basic concepts of Conservation Arboriculture. Two key points presented in that article were: the duty of care is squarely on the owner of the tree, and the perfect image of a young vigorous growing tree is as flawed as society's obsession with youth. We are finding out that life doesn't end at 40 or 65 and older people are vigorous, , continuing to make significant contributions way beyond mid life! Similarly for certain long lived tree species the benefits they provide to the environment and community increase exponential as they age. Simply put a tree that is twice as old will provide four times the benefits. Here is an site that allows you to calculate the approximate value of the benefits your tree provides each year to you and your community. You will be surprised and don't forget this is just for one tree.
We are all familiar with the figure of the young mature tree with arching branches gracefully reaching to the sky.
This is the picture we usually have in our minds when we think of a tree.
What we are not thinking of is the gnarled trunk and stubby branches of the veteran tree.
The silhouette of a young vigorous tree makes it all to easy to write off an older declining tree as “ hazardous” or not worth the risk of keeping it.
I'm an advocate of planting, this is a key part of any tree plan however I have long been a proponent of saving trees. What we need to do is realize that the veteran tree is alive and providing tremendous benefits. Older trees provide habitat for an enormous variety of living beings contributing greatly to the diversity of the forest. Birds, mammals, insects, spiders, plants, fungi and microbes all live and develop webs of inter-connectivity in Veteran Trees.
If you have ever walked in a tree plantation with even aged trees the lack of diversity will be immediately apparent. Tree plantations and working trees have their place and are valuable. They typically are not very biologically diverse environments. Studies have shown an ancient tree in a forest grove may have 90% of the biological diversity in the whole grove.
We need to take a close look at the Veteran Tree with an eye on preservation rather than simply on hazard reduction.
As trees age they begin to die back from the tips, creating stout thick branches and stems with numerous adventitious sprouts that look grizzled and somewhat bizarre. This doesn't mean the tree is beyond hope! Its a natural response to aging.
Take the time to look at Veteran Trees, see how they have adapted and continued to survive. Recognize the beauty of the Veteran Tree. If you have an aged tree, take the time to contact and ISA Certified Arborist who specializes in conservation arboriculture and have them examine your Veteran Tree. You may save and old friend.