If trees are not incorporated into the initial planning phase and prior to any land disturbance, the likelihood of their longevity and vigor greatly decreases.  Trees can require several years to adjust to injury and environmental changes that occur during construction and may not ever recover. Stressed trees are more prone to health problems such as disease and insect infestation, slow decline, and eventual death leaving the landowner with costly tree removal impacts.  Construction and land preparation activities can cause tree death during a project or tree decline over several years, when the cause may not be as obvious. Trees must be carefully protected throughout the site development process in order to prevent these problems.  Impacts of not incorporating tree preservation into initial planning process can be:  

Surface impacts:

Wind and Sun damage: Trees develop strong anchorage only where it is needed, so trees in groups may have less secure anchorage. Removing some trees from a group will expose the remaining trees to excessive wind velocities and sun conditions that are unfavorable leading to stress.

Excessive pruning: Trees are pruned to prevent damage to utility wires and buildings, but careless pruning can cause tree death. When too many branches are removed or the branches have been pruned improperly, the tree may not be able to sustain itself or may experience decay.

Physical injury to trunk and crown: Construction equipment can injure the above-ground portion of a tree by breaking branches, tearing the bark, and wounding the trunk. These injuries are permanent and, if extensive, can be fatal. Promptly repair trees damaged by construction operations within 24 hours. Treat damaged trunks, limbs, and roots according to recommendations provided by Fort Smith Tree Conservation Partners.

Root zone impacts:

  • Raising the grade can interfere with gas exchange and suffocate roots, and can also raise the water table and drown the roots.
  • Lowering the grade removes topsoil and feeder roots, exposing the other roots to drying and freezing. Lowering the grade can also lower the water table and cause drought.
  • Compaction of soil within the drip line, by means of heavy equipment traffic or grade changes, blocks oxygen and water from the roots.
  • Chemicals dumped in the soil can change soil chemistry and can be toxic to trees.
  • Cutting of roots: The roots of the tree are found mostly in the upper 6 to 12 inches of the soil. In a mature tree, the roots extend far from the trunk – typically growing a distance of one to three times the height of the tree. The amount of damage a tree can suffer from root loss depends, in part, on how close to the tree the cut is made. Severing one major root can cause the loss of 5 to 20 percent of the root system. Trenching and excavating within the root zone can damage as much as 40 percent of the root system, causing a slow tree death within a few years.