Assessing the need for tree removal: top 10 tips

by | Apr 17, 2018 | Featured Slider, Latest, News, Technical, Top Ten Tips

Deciding whether a tree needs to be removed can be a tricky business. Lee Davies, Consultant at Artemis Tree Services, offers advice to help arborists through the process.

As tree professionals we understand the wide range of social, economic and environmental benefits trees provide, such as absorbing pollution, reducing the severity of flooding, and improving the health and wellbeing of society as a whole. It is therefore important that these benefits are conserved wherever practicable. However, there will be circumstances when trees need to be removed. Below are ten tips for identifying trees that need to be removed.

  1. Training

Obtain suitable training to enable you to recognise significant defects in trees that may dictate their removal. Ideally anyone inspecting and giving advice to clients concerning the safe condition of trees should hold a qualification in arboriculture to a minimum of NQF Level 3 or equivalent, and ideally hold the Lantra Awards Professional Tree Inspection Certificate.

  1. Use a systematic approach when inspecting trees

Using a systematic and consistent approach when inspecting trees will help ensure potential hazards are not missed. This can be achieved by using an inspection sheet or checklist to ensure all parts of the tree are recorded.

  1. Use available resources to help identify significant defects

Arborist field guides, such as those produced by the Arboricultural Association are very helpful for identifying defects in trees such (e.g. wood decay fungi) and understanding their significance. Some species of fungi can present a higher risk than others and infected trees may need to be removed.

  1. Pests and disease

Keep up to date with current threats from pests and disease and guidance on treatment options. Current information can be obtained from the Forestry Commission ( In a small number of cases a tree may have to be removed to prevent the spread of disease (e.g. Dutch elm disease).

  1. Seek help from experts where required

It some circumstances it may be necessary to seek higher help where a higher level of expertise is required to assess whether tree removal is necessary. This can include the use of laboratory identification services to correctly identify a pest or disease, or employing an arboriculturist to undertake further investigation using specialist decay detection equipment.

  1. Tree value

Weigh up the value of the tree against the reasons for felling. If young trees or trees of poor quality are causing a nuisance, it may be more cost efficient to remove problem trees and replant in a more suitable location. For higher value trees alternative options to tree removal should be considered.

  1. Alternative options

Consider alternative options to tree removal for high value trees. For example, if leaves are causing a nuisance by blocking up gutters, installing gutter brushes or guards may solve the problem. If trees are causing a mess on cars, can a carport be installed or car cover used in place of felling?

  1. Alternative tree management options

Consider alternative tree management options. Could pruning works prevent or reduce a nuisance or risk, whilst retaining the tree and the benefits it provides?

  1. Consider the effects of tree removal on surrounding trees

Trees growing in groups offer each other protection from the wind. Removing a tree from a group may suddenly expose the remaining trees to winds they have not adapted to withstand. It may be necessary to crown-reduce these trees to prevent an increased risk of storm damage.

  1. Check for tree protection

Finally, if tree removal is required, you will need to find out if the tree is protected by a Tree Protection Order (TPO) or if it is situated within a conservation area. You may need to seek consent or notify the council before trees can be removed.