Whilst working in Sheffield this week we spotted damage to three trees in Stannington. We noticed that about 3ft up from the base of the tree, a band of bark roughly a foot in width has been inexpertly hacked away exposing the stem.
These trees appear to have been ring barked and some Tree Surgeons in a crude way refer to this method as slitting the throat of a tree. What is ring barking, what damage does it do to the tree, why should we all be aware and why do people some times do this in a DIY fashion to local trees?
Ring barking is when a band or ring of bark normally a foot or less in width is removed from the stem of a tree
The bark is the skin of the tree that protects the stem from dissection, impact damage, extremes in weather and pathogens. When the bark is stripped in an accident or on purpose it exposes the cambium layer of tree to pathogens and stops sap from flowing around the tree which prevents the required synthesised carbohydrates from reaching the roots.
This disturbance causes the tree to become stressed and the canopy will start to die back. If pathogens infect the tree this will lead to numerous issues as listed but the tree will start to show signs of poor health and most likely die.
Ring barking has existed for centuries in woodland management and clearance. Arborists may ring bark numerous trees that needs to be removed so that the tree canopy dies meaning that there will be much less waste to process and deal with when the tree is felled. However, these trees though have been marked for felling and this technique is normally only carried out on large projects, not on domestic trees.
If you see this kind of damage in a public area in the first instance you can call the council who can make efforts to limit the damage.
A Tree Surgeon can smooth the jagged area of bark to aid healing of the remaining bark and sometimes people choose to put polythene over the ringed area to protect the stem. However, bark doesn’t grow back and in this situation prevention is better than cure.
In this instance the damage what we saw this week is purposeful. But let’s give the benefit of doubt, sometimes bark can be stripped by animals such as deer, field voles or squirrels. Damage can even occur from an over enthusiastic lawnmower or an out of control vehicle. In reality though this is very unlikely and there are no animals that can do this type of consistent and extensive damage in the UK.
In this particular example, these trees do look like they are blocking some of the light of a south west facing garden just next to them. So on this occasion it could be the work of an unhappy home owner.
There are numerous ways to deal with trees blocking out light and DIY ring barking is not one of them. A Tree Surgeon could offer to crown lift or reduce the tree canopy allowing light to pour into the garden.
If it is public land, contact the council and explain the issue. The Tree Officers there will be happy to help and will most likely inspect the trees who will offer a solution that takes into consideration the health of the tree and the issue you are facing.
As an arborist team, our aim at Silver Oak is to always act in the best interest of the tree and it is frustrating to see this kind of damage to three healthy trees.
Remember ring banding is not an effective way to deal with a tree that is causing issues, once this has happened, it cannot be corrected.
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