After reading Amanda Lloyd’s tear-jerking opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald titled Children need trees but in one decade our cities removed enough to cover Brisbane, I couldn’t help but think what a narrow-minded short term view people have about trees.
The article’s main beef was with Brisbane council removing “collective vegetation” of up to 1586 square kilometres between over an 11 year period between 2008 and 2011. The article failed to mention the 2.5 million trees planted in Brisbane since 2007. The article then went on to link the removal of these trees to children’s behavioural problems as well as anxiety, depression and attention-deficit.
As a certified arborist who knows a thing or two about tree lopping in Brisbane, it does pain me to see trees being removed in their prime. As a practising arborist in Sydney, I would routinely need to provide arborist reports to the local council with my recommendations for trees where the property owner wanted to remove them. Your first instinct is to retain the tree, especially if it is in its prime. But if the tree is past its Safe Useful Life Expectancy (SULE) it quickly becomes a danger to people and property.
Take for example the case of Bridget Wright who was killed by a falling gum tree branch as she played at school in the playground. An arborist had inspected that tree just months before and chose to retain it.
It is well documented that trees can shed branches that appear perfectly healthy and without warning, so I am not lumping the blame on the arborist. And maybe this is an unfair swipe at Amanda Lloyd’s “children need trees” article title, but you see my point.
We need to share the urban space with trees, but when it comes down to saving a tree or saving a human life there should be no question about which takes priority.
Tree removal in Brisbane is restricted to stop the careless destruction of vegetation and to protect certain regions such as the Brisbane river corridor from losing a single tree without prior consent from the council.
I think before people go postal when they hear of a tree being removed, they need to take into consideration the longer-term cycle of tree removal and planting in Brisbane. Over the next 1000 years, 5 – 10 generational cycles of trees would have sprouted from seed, lived to maturity then perished. Trying to save a tree that is at the end of its SULE and holds little long term amenity value should be removed to negate the potential danger to human life and make way for a new seed to be planed and grow in its place.
The earth has been cycling through trees for the last 4 billion years. I’m not sure removing a replanting a few trees in Brisbane Australia is going to make a huge difference to the macro cycle.
This article was in response to an opinion piece by Amanda Lloyd in the Sydney Morning Herald Jul 26, 2019, https://www.smh.com.au/national/children-need-trees-but-in-one-decade-our-cities-removed-enough-to-cover-brisbane-20190725-p52aly.html