For several years now I have been trying to properly articulate our approach here at tree awareness. What is it that separates us from your average tree removal company? How would I sum up our methodology of caring for your trees and shrubs?
In a recent article by Jack Philips, entitled “A Walk in the Woods With Alex Shigo”, I found our Philosophy woven into the text.
Shigo says that good arboriculture is based on understanding how trees grow and survive. This means working to improve natural tree strategies by reducing stress and increasing energy reserves. Trying to eliminate the organisms that feed on trees can be counter-productive because tree defenses can be weakened and the population of attacking organisms can be strengthened.
For example, by eliminating large numbers of defoliating insects feeding on a tree, the concentration of defensive chemicals in the leaves may also decrease. The use of insecticides can make the tree more vulnerable to future infections.
The defoliating insect population can be strengthened because the weakest individuals are the most susceptible to insecticides. The surviving individuals are left to reproduce and pass resistant traits on to the next generation. This is one way that pests become resistant to chemical controls over time.
Insecticides can also interfere with the natural controls by unintentionally killing predators and parasites of the target insect, and by eliminating weak individuals that could otherwise infect the pest population with diseases. This does not mean that artificial controls should never be used; they should be used only when radical measures are the only available option.
Shigo’s oscillation model helps us learn how to work with nature, not against it. Arboriculture can take advantage of the natural controls of pests and pathogens while strengthening the defensive strategies of trees. This is not a passive approach that simply lets nature take its course and leaves trees to fend for themselves. Rather, it is an approach based on proper selection, location, planting, pruning, preservation, and restoration.
This is how we can help trees capture and store the energy required for healthy growth and survival.
We learn in the woods that trees live in countless relationships. Shigo liked to say that the forest is a single tree under ground, and the creatures we see before us are connected in ways beyond imagination. The members of the community live, grow, die, and decay for the benefit of all. Organisms that feed on the trees in various stages of life are not adversaries, but associates. Nature is not a battle, but a dance.
And we must join this dance. We are responsible for every tree we cut or plant,, and must become advocates for the trees and teachers of enlightened tree care. But we need trees more than they need us. On their last walk near his cottage by the pond, Alex turned to Jack and said: “Trees saw us coming, and trees will see us going.” This is now true for Alex. And the forest is lonelier.
Alex Shigo considered by most as the father of Modern Arboriculture passed away at his cottage on October 6, 2006. He will be greatly missed by all in our industry.