by Graeme McMahon
The Dandenong Ranges and surrounding districts host a variety of forest eco-systems. Whilst their cycles of growth can be very different they all share a common trait, intolerance to human invasion.
Storm and fire events are natural cycles for forests as are floods and erosion. The paradox is that our desire to reside in these areas is in conflict with the health and stability of the forests. The construction of roads, houses (gardens and lawns), power easements etc are intrusions to forests, as are the changes to drainage and soil heights from excavations.
The removal of trees for the legitimate construction of houses and roads enables the surrounding trees to grow into that space and the light created. Over time substantial growth can overhang into that cleared area. Removal of understory and groundcover vegetation diminishes the “mat” of roots assisting with soil stability and alters the flow of rainwater runoff from normal rain events.
Whilst the removing of the understory increases fire safety for a resident it can reduce the stability of the remnant trees. The proximity of the remaining vegetation to fixed property can become cause for heartfelt and emotionally charged debate.
The concept of clearing all vegetation or the notion that all vegetation must be left alone have no place in the hills or this discussion. The management of vegetation takes effort and vigilance.
Residents can reduce the incidence of tree failures by taking the time to assess and observe their trees. You don’t need to be an arborist to commence the management of your trees.
Removal of trees does require consultation with Council to obtain permits for any removal work. By following a few simple steps a resident can be informed and assist such processes. A simple self audit of surrounding trees creates an opportunity to seek alternative quotations for works prior to a storm event and not be “stuck” with the only contractor available during an emergency.