As certified arborists, we have the privilege of working closely with trees and witnessing their incredible beauty and resilience. We are dedicated to the health and longevity of trees. In some instances, we identify trees that require additional support to ensure their stability, longevity, and safety. In such cases, installing canopy support systems becomes vital.
There are several reasons why trees may require support systems. One reason for a support system is trees can develop structural weakness over time. Factors such as poor branching patterns, co-dominant stems, or included bark can compromise a tree’s structural integrity. These weaknesses increase the risk of limb/tree failure which can pose a risk to people and property. Implementing a support system can provide additional stability, reducing the likelihood of failure and ensuring the tree’s longevity. A second reason for trees needing a support system involves exposure to various environmental stresses, such as strong winds, heavy ice or snow loads, and severe storms. These conditions can exert significant forces on a tree. By providing the necessary reinforcement, installing support systems can mitigate the potential damage caused by adverse weather conditions. Preservation of historical or valuable trees is another reason support systems are used. Some trees hold historical, cultural, or sentimental value to tree owners and communities. These trees may have witnessed significant events or have aesthetic importance. When such trees exhibit signs of weakness, support systems can be implemented as an alternative to tree removal extending their lifespan and preserving their legacy for future generations to enjoy. Another common reason for tree support systems is for trees that have experienced damage due to storms, construction activities or accidental impacts. Bracing and/or cabling these sorts of injured trees can aid in stabilizing damaged limbs or trunks, facilitating tree recovery, and minimizing the risk of further damage.
Once a tree has been identified as warranting a support system, determining which of the two primary types of support system is necessary: dynamic or static system. Each system can be very effective depending on the tree and its needs. It is important to review all the factors of the situation to be sure the right system is chosen.
Dynamic support systems are designed to allow some controlled movement within a tree’s canopy. These systems are primarily used to reduce stress caused by excessive swaying, especially during strong winds or storms. The benefit of permitting a degree of swaying is the encouragement of healthy limb and trunk development. Controlled swaying preserves natural movement of the tree ensuring it maintains its natural response to wind. Allowing trees to continue to develop response wood to movement, stronger more flexible limbs and trunks will develop improving its overall stability. Dynamic systems allow trees to better adapt to varying weather conditions. Dynamic systems absorb some of the stress caused by wind and weather alleviating the strain on the tree’s roots and branches helping to reduce the risk of failure, another benefit of this system. Dynamic systems do not involve drilling into the tree to install hardware or cables. No drilling of the tree means there are no wounds sustained that the tree would need to conceal and/or no wounds that could potentially develop decay. Unfortunately, not all trees are candidates for a dynamic support system. Trees with visible signs of structural compromise or existing injury would not be a candidate for a static support system, but instead a static system. Tree form and location of branch unions, within canopies, play a role in qualifying or disqualifying a tree for the use of a dynamic support system. Installing dynamic support systems requires careful planning and expertise. The material needs to be properly tensioned to provide adequate support without restricting the tree’s movement excessively. Further, dynamic systems need periodic inspections to maintain proper tension and ensure their effectiveness, failure of which may lead to unexpected failures or tree damage.
The other option is a static support system. These systems are designed to restrict or greatly minimize movement within a tree’s canopy. These systems are typically used to support trees with structural weakness, defects, or damage such as multiple trunks or split branch unions. Static systems provide rigid support to minimize excessive movement and reduce stress on weak or damaged areas of the. Static systems are effective for immediate threats. They are ideal for trees with visible signs of weaknesses or potential risks. They can provide immediate stability and prevent further damage. In some cases, static systems are relatively easier to install than dynamic systems and require less periodic adjustments. However, unlike dynamic systems, static support systems limit the tree’s natural swaying potentially affecting its growth and response to environmental stimuli. This can lead to decreased flexibility and compromise the tree’s ability to adapt to changing conditions. Trees with static systems become reliant on this artificial support. If the system is removed abruptly without considering the tree’s stability, or there are drastic site changes where the tree stands, the tree may experience structural failure. Also, static systems require drilling into the tree for the attachment of the hardware. Where the drilling takes place, trees need to respond appropriately to being wounded or decay can set it creating another area of weakness.
Whether it is addressing structural weakness, mitigating environmental stresses, preserving valuable trees, aiding in post-damage recover, or implementing preventative measures, support systems play an important role in ensuring the health and longevity of trees. It is arborists responsibility to assess each tree’s needs and implement support systems thoughtfully and professionally. Dynamic systems offer benefits like trunk development and natural movement preservation, while static systems provide enhanced structural support and immediate corrective action to damaged trees. By carefully considering these factors, arborists can ensure the right support system is implemented, promoting the health and safety of trees for years to come.