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How Do You Survey A Tree

  • Posted by:
  • Admin
  • Tags:
  • Tree Survey, Tree Health, Tree Issues
  • Posted date:
  • 19-04-2022
How Do You Survey A Tree

Have you ever wondered, How Do You Survey A Tree? This article looks at how a professional will carry out a tree survey. We discuss how professional tree surveys are conducted and how they identify issues.

How to Conduct a Professional Tree Survey

A professional BS 5837 Tree Survey, otherwise known as an Arboricultural survey, compiles all relevant information in regards to the trees located on the desired development site. 

The Tree Survey should be conducted by a professionally qualified and experienced Arborist (Tree consultant) to ensure the British Standards (BS 5837: 2012) are met. 

The difference between a 'Tree surgeon' and 'Aborist' is that the latter must attain qualifications to become a master of tree management, whilst a tree surgeon is tasked with general maintenance and can often rely on experienced gained on the job.

The survey also ensures that educated planning decisions are made before the construction begins to limit potential damage to healthy trees on the site area. 

A comprehensive Tree Survey will detail the name, location, condition, age, and potential growth of trees. In addition, the terrain specifics, preservation orders and an initial management proposal, along with diseases or infestations that were noticed, are discussed within an Arboricultural Impact Assessment report.

How Do You Survey A Tree?

Initially, using a Tree Constraints Plan, each tree on the development site can be accurately plotted, with their current health documented. 

The information collected can help landowners and/or developers ensure the healthiest and protected trees are retained, whilst informed recommendations for tree removal can be specified.

The trees are categorised into four classes, either A, B, C or U. 'A' being the highest quality tree with the longest expected lifespan, whilst 'U' describes the trees in poor condition with low retention prospects. Furthermore, an Arboricultural Impact Assessment can be compiled with further detail and recommendations.

To create a plan for tree removal or retention, an Arboricultural Method Statement presents attainable steps to reach the final goal. 

Additionally, a Topographical survey can be completed to highlight any natural or man-made features on the site, including the permanent aspects that could affect construction, like streams, buildings or land elevations. 

Without this information, the design may need alterations during the construction process, creating issues and lengthening the job.

Pre-planning a Tree Health Survey

To detect certain infestations or developments in tree diseases, parts of the survey should be timed to give a clear view of changes or the worsening of the tree's condition. 

The entire site must be checked with no trees getting skipped. The attention to detail demands some pre-planning to avoid mistakes. 

Most of the surveyor's work is carried out on the ground level, although to check tree crowns and cavities, getting to a higher level may be required. 

Pre-planning and dividing the development site into various sections increases practicability and makes the overall project more manageable stated below are four accredited ways to do this:

  • Quarter point transects: Identify a diseased tree, then move straight towards each compass direction (North, South, East, West), documenting any other affected trees along the way.
  • Line transects: Use a string of evenly spaced transect lines and check each tree to the left and right of the line.
  • Radius Survey: For larger and denser areas of trees, like forests, it's most efficient to establish a circular radius, and then continually expand this a few metres at a time.
  • Complete Survey: This simply examines every tree in the area of a stated species, using the species for categorisation.
How to Conduct a Professional Tree Survey

What Information is on a Tree Survey?

The comprehensive B5837 Tree Survey and accompanying Arboricultural Impact Assessment should provide you with the relevant information regarding all the on-site trees' current and future conditions. 

All of the information gathered during the survey allows for more efficient pre-planning regarding tree removal and retention. 

Final decisions should be made based on the trees' current condition and predicted lifespan before the construction stages start. 

Making early decisions on tree retention or removal will help prevent unfavourable surprises and disruptive changes to plans.

Below is a list simply stating the information provided by an Arborist after completing a Tree Survey in line with British Standard 5837. Data gathered from completing this list would highlight a trees' current health, as well as the future potential or lack thereof.

  • Species
  • Location
  • Age & Expected life
  • Physical Condition
  •  Size, Crown spread
  • Leaf Colour
  • Canopy condition
  • Roots condition
  • Visible Ivy or Fungus

When is a Tree Survey Necessary?

A comprehensive Tree Survey is necessary whenever there are trees on the designated development site or trees on neighbouring terrain. 

This area includes neighbour's gardens or public streets; whenever a tree is in the position to fall on to or over the site boundary.

Predominantly, the survey is required by larger residential developers, yet individual homeowners desiring to change their property should also conduct the survey when considering an extension or using an architect, for example. 

Without a completed Arboricultural Survey being compiled before the planning process, existing trees can be forgotten, leading to a disorganised and chaotic development. 

Local authorities often require a completed BS5837 Tree Survey to consider the potential consequences to trees owed to construction in the specified area.

What Information is on a Tree Survey?

Identifying Relevant Tree Issues

Tree Surveys not only present relevant information on the trees in the designated development area, but it maintains personal safety on-site and can protect the growth and development of new trees in the area. 

The more trees in the area, especially if they're considered high-risk, results in greater responsibility. To ensure the highest standard, a professional and qualified arborist should complete the survey. 

An experienced arborist will produce incredibly useful information and data to create an efficient plan for the land. Information collected from the survey will highlight issues with individual trees, groups of trees or the whole development site. The key information included in a BS5837 Tree Survey is stated below:

  • Species
  • Measurements
  • Age
  • Health/Condition
  • Life expectancy
  • Potential Growth
  • The severity of any damages or defects
  • Presence of pests or ivy (if any)
  • Management recommendations

A tree's current overall state of health can be established by analysing various individual aspects and their respective condition. The information gathered can also predict the trees' future potential, prominent elements to focus on are listed below:

Pests, disease, and decay detection

The type of insect or pest can determine the extent of any damage caused, from leaf decay to growth disturbances, any health issues can weaken the tree until ultimately it dies. 

The pests that are causing the decay should be highlighted in the Tree Survey, this is possible by using reliable evaluative tools like motion sensors, a sonic tomograph or chlorophyll fluorimeter. 

A professional Arborist should supply and use this specialist equipment to provide incredibly accurate data from the tree survey, allowing the most effective resolutions to be decided upon.

Diversity in tree population

Tree diversity on the development site can be assessed using the BS5837 Tree Survey. 

This data allows imbalances in tree species to be recognised during the survey so that recommendations can be given to improve tree variety. Having a more diverse tree population protects from the loss of all trees in the event of a disease or pest infestation. 

Furthermore, tree diversity data can develop educated suggestions as to the appropriate trees to add to the site and how these should be managed (i.e. planting, adopting, maintenance removal, disposal).

    Safety risks

    A safety assessment identifies the trees located near property or people that may pose a risk. 

    When a tree reaches the advanced stage of decay, it becomes increasingly hazardous, any tree in this state should be investigated during the survey noting potential health and safety risks for anyone on the site.

    Moreover, recommendations for felling and/or replacement can be made. Before buying land, a safety risk can provide accurate information on any unkempt trees so that designers and/or site managers can develop practical designs.

      Compliance with government laws

      When working with trees, there are various laws to abide by, the type of law relevant can depend on the site location and regional requirements for BS5837 Tree Surveys. 

      A UK government regulation that's closely associated with tree work is 'the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981', which refers to preventing protected trees from being damaged or cut down, as they home various protected wildlife. 

      Another consideration is Section 3 of The Health & Safety at Work Act, which details the landowner and/or employers' responsibility to protect employees working in high-risk areas and prevent any injuries.


        If you want assistance in safely removing a tree from your property or would like to book an evaluation or assessment, please contact our professional team of arborists today.

        We offer tree felling, tree surveys and tree removal in Northampton, Milton Keynes and Bedford.

        Are you looking for tree surgery in Northampton, Milton Keynes or Bedford? Get in touch with our experienced tree expert today to discus any of the tree services below.