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What to do if your trees are dying during a drought

Updated: Dec 1, 2023

Over the years we have experienced bouts of heatwave. Mother Nature rages and many of us are feeling the sweltering heat. Even our trees are getting hot and bothered.

At Accomplished Tree Management, where Nature is the very nature of our business, the extreme heatwave and unusually long period of drought are causes for worry. While as arborists we face many challenges in our job, Mother Nature's rage is probably the biggest test of our work.

When Trees Die

The heatwave we had in 2019, for example, is actually not new. Perth Hills in Western Australia lost more than 25 per cent of trees across 7000 hectares of jarrah forest due to an onslaught of drought and heatwave in 2010-2011. Even earlier between 2003 and 2007, Australia had witnessed the deaths of similar numbers of trees.

When trees die, the damage does not stay there. It sets off a domino effect down the food chain and native wildlife end up paying the price. We lose not only trees but also many species of wildlife who make their homes in the forest.

And this is still not the end of the damage. When trees die en masse during a drought, forests no longer function normally. They start emitting carbon dioxide instead of absorbing it.

When trees die during a drought or dry season | Accomplished Tree Management | Tel: 0411 443 535

Assessing Trees

Caring for our environment is a collective effort. Home and property owners who have trees and vegetation need to monitor their greenery continuously and pay especial attention during periods of extreme weather conditions.

If you have trees on your property, you need to take note of these concerns:

1. Drought mechanically changes the structure of trees.

There is dieback of branches in tree crowns and the entire root and trunk systems get weakened or even die. This means the tree is no longer solidly rooted into the ground.

A professional arborist can inspect the tree thoroughly and its surroundings to assess if it runs the risk of falling over. A fallen tree could cause injuries or damage infrastructures (e.g. blocked roads, power lines being affected) when a particularly windy season comes along. The root system is the tree's support system. When that is stressed, trees develop unstable root systems which are not visible from the outside. This makes a tree top heavy and unbalanced. This can easily cause a tree to be uprooted.

2. Sometimes, by the time an arborist is called in to assess the situation, it may be too late to reverse the process of a weakened tree.

This is where the skills and experience of a good arborist are needed. What we can do is to identify affected trees and advise owners the best option to take.

We know that when trees are missing some lower limbs it is because they are fighting to preserve whatever little nutrients they have for the rest of the tree. We also look for changes in the soil near the roots. Cracks in the soil does not merely mean a lack of proper watering. It could well be an indication the tree is ´moving´.

3. Sometimes we have to tell home owners their tree is simply not going to make it and that it would be better to take it out than leave it there as a potential hazard.

Our aim is always to preserve life whenever possible and sometimes in extreme cases a judgement call is needed for the safety of the people living in the surroundings. Opting for a drastic measure is rarely happy news. A tree may hold sentimental value for some owners and in other cases taking out a tree may mean an unexpected inconvenient expenditure.

4. Tree owners may have had the best intentions for the tree and made the attempt to rectify damage in an unsuitable way.

Holding up bits of dead branches or trying to support a tree with a strap may work for a small tree but not for a chunky one. Owners may also attempt to shave off quite a bit of crown from the tree thinking it would reduce the weight and the tree can then hold itself up better. Excessive pruning can actually weaken a tree. Nature has its miraculous mathematical formulae when it comes to balance. Trees need a certain amount of weight to keep itself up.

At Accomplished Tree Management, we are often called in to interpret the ´body language´ of trees and look at its surroundings to identify the hidden damage and potential dangers.

Nature holds a very special place in our hearts which is why we are dedicated to what we do. And part of that involves sharing with our clients our knowledge and experience about the care of trees and helping our clients understand what their trees need. If what they have been doing to their trees is causing them more harm than good, we help our clients see the reasons why. We want our clients to be proud of their responsibility in looking after their trees.

Working together for nature

At the end of the day, the necessity of our work shows and what makes our job a highly rewarding one is the trust we have from our clients. What our clients say about our services keeps us going. It is a three-way connection we have - the trees, our clients and arborists. Clients learn something from us during our interaction and the next time they notice dead branches, a thinning crown or unusual fungal growth, their instinct is to call us instead of risking a DIY on their tree. It is highly motivating for us when clients trust our expertise to call us in for a hazard assessment and they want to hear our recommendations.

This current dry spell we are seeing makes the work we do even more important. We want to help as many clients as possible understand what they can do during such periods of severe weather conditions. Extreme high temperatures and a lack of water over a long period of time are taking their toil on nature.

We can all take an active role in caring for the precious Nature that is left for us to enjoy. The current state of our planet is a wake-up call. We can no longer ignore the signs that Mother Nature is very ill.

Speak to us to learn how to best protect your trees. A well-carried out hazard assessment can save owners unnecessary problems in the future and at Accomplished Tree Management, we are here to help find the best possible solution to preserve Nature for many generations to come.

About Accomplished Tree Management: Tel 0411 443 535

Accomplished Tree Management is a tree services company and arborist based in Port Macquarie and services the Mid North Coast. With over 16 years experience, we employ safe work methods and are certified with Australian AS 4373-2007-Pruning of Amenity Trees standards. We're fully insured with $20 million Public Liability and $5 million Professional Indemnity Insurance.

We provide the following tree management services -

  • Tree management - tree removals, palm tree services, council permits

  • Tree and garden maintenance - hedging, pruning, deadwooding, stump grinding

  • Tree consultation - arboricultural reports, hazard assessment

"What to do if your trees are dying during a drought" is written by Vermilion Pinstripes, a modern digital marketing firm based in Port Macquarie, Sydney and Melbourne Australia and Singapore helping businesses engage better with customers so they can sell without selling.


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