How Arborists Limit Their Environmental Impact

Tree care matters in sustainability. Ensuring healthy and long-lived trees in urban, suburban, and rural environments helps preserve balanced ecosystems. Vegetation keeps carbon dioxide from reaching the atmosphere and accelerating climate change. Trees alleviate heat waves, render floods manageable, improve air quality, filter out water pollution, and contribute to food security.

Arborists — tree health specialists — play vital roles in environmental conservation. However, their line of work has a dark side. Understand how arborists sometimes hurt what they vow to protect and the green practices they adopt to be more eco-friendly.

Understanding an Arborist’s Work

Arborists cultivate trees, shrubs, woody plants and vines. Also known as arboriculturists and tree surgeons, they perform various tasks to extend trees’ lives and ensure they contribute positively to the Earth.

In addition to watering, pruning, shaping, bracing, and fertilizing plants, these specialists identify and control pests and diagnose and treat diseases affecting perennial plants. Arborists also remove dead, diseased, and declining trees to maintain an environment’s overall health.

Although arboriculturists are conservationist allies, their work can jeopardize the health and safety of some wildlife and human populations. Some do more damage than necessary due to low competence levels, the use of improper equipment and terrible practices.

Ways Arborists Harm Nature

Tree surgeons can negatively impact the environment by displacing wildlife, causing air and noise pollution, and disturbing the ecological balance.

Disrupting Habitats

Snags — dead and dying trees — provide shelter to various living organisms, including insects and mammals. Their lifeless tops and branches give birds real estate for perching and courtship and unobstructed views for hunting and territorial defence. Lichen, fungus and moss feed on these organic materials.

Taking snags out of the picture can be detrimental to the survival of some critters, reducing their food sources and exposing them to predators. Selective tree removal doesn’t decimate habitats the way deforestation does. Still, it’s not a victimless activity.

Emitting Greenhouse Gases

Some arborist tools run on fossil fuels. Many use gas-powered chainsaws and wood chippers, while others burn diesel to operate aerial lifts and remove snow.

Gasoline and diesel are crude oil derivatives which fall under petroleum. This fossil fuel makes up 46% of the total U.S. carbon dioxide emissions despite accounting for only 36% of the country’s energy consumption. It’s significantly dirtier than natural gas.

Generating Air Contaminants

Fossil fuel-burning machines emit wide-ranging pollutants, including fine particulates, volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxide. These are associated with respiratory diseases, mental and reproductive health problems, and premature death.

Creating Loud Noises

Fuel combustion makes rackets that can cause a host of issues with wildlife. Deafening sounds can scare animals, compromise their fertility and alter their migration patterns. Prolonged exposure to such stressors can jeopardize their physiological homeostasis.

Damaging the Surroundings Unnecessarily

Oversized machines can injure perfectly healthy nearby trees. These casualties compound potential habitat disruption issues.

Introducing Invasive Trees

Less considerate arborists replace snags with unfit plants, doing more harm than good. Invasive species consume resources — soil nutrients, water and sunlight — without providing sufficient food and shelter to animals. These unwelcome newcomers may eradicate the native trees, changing local ecosystems for the worse.

How Arborists Reduce Their Environmental Impact

Thankfully, more arborists are adopting the sustainable practices below to do their jobs well without becoming environmental nuisances:

  • Wielding proper tools: Eco-friendly tree surgeons use equipment of a certain size to leave the surroundings outside of their work areas untouched when performing their various duties.
  • Using green equipment: Environmentally conscious arborists are upgrading to hybrid and electric chainsaws, wood chippers, trailer-mounted aerial lifts, and vehicles. These machines release little to no emissions and air pollution. They also operate more quietly, allowing tree surgeons to complete projects without disturbing nesting sites and promote biodiversity.
  • Embracing circularity: Green-minded arboriculturists take equipment maintenance seriously to extend the period between gear replacements. Some rent less essential tools to avoid inflating demand for newly manufactured products. Those in several U.S. states can switch to renewable diesel to reduce their carbon intensity by 65% on average until their diesel-only machines reach their end of life.
  • Repurposing wood: Eco-friendly arborists don’t send tree remains to landfills. Instead, they give snags new leases on life as mulch, compost, timber, and lumber to reduce waste and conserve landfill space.
  • Replanting native trees: Sustainable tree surgeons put a premium on site surveying. They factor in available space, soil conditions, moisture levels, and sun exposure to determine which native species to replant and maximize their merits for local ecosystems.
  • Engaging communities: Arborists preach the value of vegetation to the public. They understand that it takes a village to keep trees in good shape. Using their credibility, they can compel stakeholders to help preserve greenery for the community’s benefit.

Making Arboriculture a Net Positive for the Environment

Arborists may never fully eliminate their work’s undesirable ecological effects. Fortunately, they can be more considerate and adopt various sustainable practices to diminish the unavoidable negatives they may cause dramatically.

Author Bio

Jack Shaw is the senior writer for Modded, a men’s lifestyle publication. An avid outdoorsman and lover of nature, he often takes retreats to explore his environment and encourages others to do the same. His writings have been featured on sites such as Duluth Pack, Tiny Buddha, and more. Contact him via LinkedIn.

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