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How Construction Hurts Your Trees: And What You Can Do

Construction is inevitable when it comes to urban living. While construction is often unavoidable, it’s important to remember that it can have a big impact on your existing trees and landscape plants.

How Construction Damages Your Trees

There are a few important ways construction can severely damage – or even kill – your established trees.

  • Compacting the soil: Prolonged and heavy traffic – from equipment and foot traffic -compacts soil in the trees feeder root zone. You’ll often see large piles of debris piled up at the base of trees. This compaction leads to reduction in the air spaces that feeder roots need in order to take up water and nutrients. With less air space, trees struggle to expand roots and grow. Compacted soil also leads to reduced water and oxygen absorption – without the air spaces to hold water, rainfall or irrigation runs off instead.
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  • Removing top soil: Top soil is the most fertile and important layer of soil. The important feeder roots are located here along with mycorrhizae fungi. Mycorrhizae help to break down organic matter & turn it into nutrients that your trees can take up and help to break down harmful chemicals – like heavy metals. Without the mycorrhizae found in topsoil, your trees won’t be as vigorous, and can suffer from insects and diseases.
  • Damage to tree roots: When you build a new home, add on to an existing one, put in a driveway, or even install an irrigation system, you might not realize just how many tree roots will be cut in the process. In addition to the damage to all of the smaller feeder roots, often large structural support roots are cut, leaving the tree susceptible to instability. Often during construction projects, we see more than 50% of a tree’s root system get severed. This is a dangerous situation for your large established trees.
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Extensive root damage has been done to this Magnolia tree.

Tree Protection Plans

If you or your neighbors are about to embark on a construction project around your home, the time to discuss a tree protection plan with a certified arborist is before you start. Tree protection plans are also highly recommended – and sometimes required – for commercial projects. By discussing factors that will impact the health and stability of your tree before construction begins, we can help mitigate or even prevent many forms of damage – saving your large established trees.

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An example of well-planned tree protection.

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