One of the most ominous symptoms of imminent tree failure is the development of a small gap between the soil and the tree's trunk. Such gaps can indicate a wide array of problems, but most importantly, they indicate that the tree is at high risk of failure.
It is always important to inspect your trees for this problem, and solicit the assistance of an ISA-certified arborist to address the problem.
Causes of the Chasm
There are three primary ways in which these soil gaps occur:
- The soil is not structurally stable, which has allowed the tree to rock back and forth in the wind. This causes the tree's base to push the soil away from the trunk.
- The soil dried out and contracted, which usually occurs during atypically hot and dry summers.
- The tree's root system has partially failed, preventing it from keeping the tree stable in the wind.
These problems are especially likely to occur in trees that were planted too deeply, which further complicates the process. It is often difficult for laypersons to determine the cause of the gap, so professional assistance is imperative.
What's the Big Deal?
Large trees are incredibly heavy things. Even a little 30-foot-tall dogwood may weigh more than 1,000 pounds (check out this neat calculator, if you are so inclined), and remaining upright is no small task.
Trees primarily do this spreading their weight out evenly, producing reaction wood to offset the push and pull of the prevailing winds, and – most importantly – producing a large, wide-ranging root system. The roots worm their way through the soil, anchoring themselves in place as they go. Contrary to popular perception, root systems keep trees upright by spreading out, not down.
When the roots are healthy and the soil is adequately stable, this arrangement works marvelously. Right this second, this strategy is keeping some 3 trillion trees upright all over the world. But when either part of the pairing fails, the tree's fate is sealed – eventually, the wind is going to blow that thing over.
Hopefully such fate-tempting trees grow in an empty field somewhere, but all too often, they occur in backyards and commercial complexes.
Unfortunately, there isn't much that can be done to correct these types of gaps. Restoring a root system to full health essentially involves correcting any problems present and then providing supportive care to the tree while it generates new, healthy roots. This may be possible to accomplish with a newly transplanted tree, but supporting an 80-foot eucalyptus tree is an entirely different story – not to mention that older trees recover more slowly than young trees do.
Corrective actions to the soil may be possible in some cases, but such attempts are as much art as science. After all, trees require "goldilocks" soil – it cannot be too compacted, nor too loose.
To learn more, contact a company like Arborcare Tree Service.