Wednesday, April 2, 2008

ISA HK/China --- Arborists are just Tree Men?

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Dear xxx,

Thank you for your enquiry & we are broadcasting our reply to you in an open Station Mail so that some of our Station Members can also understand the knowledge contained. Please note that it is our Station Policy that any communication coming in can be circulated within our channels for our internal discussion. However, it is customary that we would hide your personal information so that your identity is not disclosed, unless the attack is malicious.

Your claim that Arborists are just Tree Men only can be right to a certain extent in that Arborists would usually deal with trees in urban landscape. However, the Arborist profession would usually go beyond that to study only trees & would branch out into the following disciplines as recently demanded for research in the Arboriculture & Urban Forestry Journal of ISA as follows:

1. Entomology --- The studies of insects, since some insects attack trees.

2. Social Issues & Economic Assessment --- Trees in community affects quality of living & residents' behaviour

3. Soils / Fertilization / Irrigation --- Trees need a good medium to grow well.

4. Biomechanics / Safety / Hazard / Risk --- Mature Trees can be Time Bombs if not properly cared for.

5. Pathology --- Trees, like animals including humans, can become sick.

6. Horticulture / Transplanting / Construction Damage --- the cultural practice & knowledge in keeping trees in good condition.

7. Tree Biology / Physiology / Genetics --- Arborists are Tree Doctors & Tree Detectives.

8. Urban Forest Management / Modelling / Assessment --- Like how human population is managed in a city, tree community would also require management to avoid competition, risk & undesirable growth.

9. Utilities Forestry --- Many parts of the world would have trees, be they wild or landscaped, growing underneath power lines to touch the high voltage above. These tress would need to be managed to reduce risks.

10. Ecology / Urban Interface --- Without trees, the wildlife we know on land may disappear. Trees impact the image of a city & quality of living of a community.

As you can now see, you are correct in the sense that Arborists are Tree Men because we deal mainly with trees, like doctors would mainly deal with humans & not animals. However, the knowledge of an Arborist may stretch far beyond that of just identifying trees & talking about 'flowering' like what you would anticipate. We do not & can not ignore the environment surrounding trees to help them grow well. Arborists are generally practitioners to solve problems on site.

It is also rather unusual that any single Arborist would be expert in many fields, since each field has its own depth & speciality. That's why in many quality Arborist training or discussion, usually the Arborist specializing in one field would focus on his own subject, & would leave the other areas to different experts. I personally do not know of any Arborist who is a master of all.

Arborists in our territory do not have the intention to take over the greenery as you may have hinted, but we would like to be part of the team to provide our knowledge to help bring a better tree community for the benefit of our society. Arboriculture is new to our territory, but ISA is already 84 years old, & is strongly established in many western countries including Singapore. Just compare our trees with that of Singapore & ask yourself whether Arboriculture is doing good or not for the community. Trees in Singapore are designed, installed, maintained, inspected, risk-assessed & preserved by Arborists in their community.

To become a Certified Arborist (CA) is like obtaining an entrance ticket to the Hall of Arboriculture & would not usually make you an instant professional, unless you already are, as demonstrated in many parts of the world. CA is a credential to ascertain a level of knowledge. CA exam also does not test a candidate for communication skills & practical knowledge like in-situ pruning. Many of the topics mentioned above would require research & self-study for personal development after being a CA. Around the world, most CA do not actually go into practice because practising involves legal liabilities. Practising Arborists (PA) frequently go to Court, for one reason or another. CA may not be the equivalent of PA, & that's something you may wish to understand & consider before you wish to obtain the credential.

I hope my information above can be of help to you.

Thank you for your enquiry again & please do not hesitate to contact us anytime for any question you may have.

Yours faithfully,

Sammy Au
ISA HK/China Station Manager
Professional Nurseryman, Practising Arborist & Landscaper

The ISA Mission - Through research, technology, and education, promote the professional practice of arboriculture and foster a greater public awareness of the benefits of trees. (


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