GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Before severe weather hits, arborists with proper training and experience can accurately predict whether a tree will fall during a storm, a new study led by a University of Florida scientist shows.
During a tropical storm or hurricane, some types of trees are more liable to snap or blow over than others. UF/IFAS researcher Andrew Koeser wants to make sure that trees that are more likely to damage your property are removed, while those trees that are more resistant to severe weather are left to grow for years to come.
Koeser led a recently published study in which scientists examined more than 2,000 trees in Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia during Hurricane Matthew in 2016. The storm spent days raking the coast of Florida before finally making landfall near the Georgia-South Carolina border.
There’s only a small percentage of trees that scientists and arborists consider most likely to fall or break during a tropical storm. Sure enough, most of these trees, 94%, were damaged during Hurricane Matthew. However, the vast majority survived unscathed, the study showed.
And even though researchers studied trees in those two states, the type of trees they examined are identical to many species found in north and central Florida, said Koeser, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of environmental horticulture.
“The cool thing about the Charleston and Savannah study is that it was the first time someone showed that professional arborists could accurately assess tree failure before a storm,” said Koeser, a faculty member at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm, in Hillsborough County. “If a tree is going to be dangerous, it is going to be dangerous in a hurricane. The majority of trees fall in storms, not on clear days.”
In the study of Charleston and Savannah trees, published in the journal Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, researchers found that 93% of the trees survived Hurricane Matthew completely intact. Another 6% suffered partial damage and 1% were destroyed. More importantly, failure rates differed by the type of tree, age, and defects.
This is where the arborist can play a huge role – in assessing how well your trees will stand up to the hurricanes before they hit, Koeser said.
“Certified arborists, especially those with experience and additional risk-assessment qualifications, can help you make decisions about tree care that strips away the fear that often surrounds decisions regarding safety,” he said “Moreover, they are bound by a code of ethics to be honest and forthright in their judgments.”
If you want to find a certified arborist, please contact your county Extension office and ask for an agent who works in landscape management. Otherwise, click on this web link for the International Society of Arboriculture.
–Brad Buck, UF/IFAS