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The arborist: an expert for our times

The concepts of the "green city", "green campus" or "green village" now lead and guide discussions around responsible urban planning.

The attribute "green" focuses our thoughts on a fixed image: that of the verdant boughs of a big tree, providing us with shade, keeping us cool in the hot months, and invisibly scrubbing carbon-dioxide emissions and recycling them into oxygen, the gas of life.

Analysis conducted by a real-estate firm in the town of Westbury, in New York state, has calculated that an abundance of trees in a neighbourhood can increase property values by up to 20 per cent. For these reasons, planting and cultivating large-tree varieties is generally accepted as both a sustainable choice and a desirable one.

What actions can we take to ensure the health and longevity of big trees so that they can be enjoyed for generations to come?

Trees that are neglected or not properly cared for may become problematic. A tree needs to be pruned for a variety of reasons, among them to remove diseased or storm-damaged branches; to thin the crown to permit new growth and better air circulation; or to remove obstructing lower branches.

Trees that have not been maintained for long periods may pose a safety risk to people and property. Yet, owners may not be qualified to tackle these duties themselves. To remove big branches in the upper heights of a tree's crown, it may be best to consult the experts.

An arborist is a professional in the practice of arboriculture - the cultivation, management and study of individual trees, shrubs, vines and other woody plants. Arborists generally focus on the health and safety of individual trees and are experienced in diagnosing their needs.

These "tree doctors" have the training and tools to address a multitude of ailments. In addition, they can manipulate trees' patterns of growth through pruning and other interventions in the flowering cycle.

Western countries, especially the United States and Australia, value the conservation of trees very highly. These efforts have converged in establishing departments of arboriculture in major universities, which are dedicated to fostering best practices in the care of big trees.

The Faculty of Architecture at Chulalongkorn University has recognised the importance of promoting the care of big-tree varieties in urban areas. We have organised short workshops addressing big-tree care and grooming in the context of townscaping.

Most recently, we collaborated with the Somdet Chaopraya Institute of Psychiatry and the Big C Group and, with the sponsorship of PTT, organised an instructional workshop focusing on contextualising big trees and their care in urban design practice.

This workshop, which ran from May 6 to June 11, involved both practitioners and theorists and included respected lecturers such as Professor Kittikun Decha Boonkum, recipient of the National Artist of Thailand designation in the field of architecture for 2006; Taradon Tunduan, an experienced arborist; experts from the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry; experts from the Faculty of Forestry, Kasetsart University; and experts from the Faculty of Architecture at Chulalongkorn University.

Another series of workshops will be held before the year's end. For more information, please visit http://www.land.arch.chula.ac.th http://www.land.arch.chula.ac.th or call (02) 218 4339.

Pavadee Ansusinha, Department of Landscape Architecture, Faculty of Architecture, Chulalongkorn University


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