One of my customers recently commented on the woods across the street, saying, “I like the way God made things take care of themselves.”

Several years ago, a different customer with a heavily planted property tried to explain that he wanted to limit maintenance on his property by saying, “I want it to be just like the forest.”

Both of these quotes lead to the following question: are arborists really necessary?

The answer is “yes” and for two related reasons. Arborists work with trees outside of the forest and, because of safety and aesthetics, trees need more care outside of the forest.

Before I address these two reasons, however, let me paint the opposite picture. There is the “forest” option available for all living things. In a sense, you could choose to leave everything to its natural cycle of birth, growth, decline and death. You would take no special measures to ensure the maximum lifespan or vitality of your plants, pets, children or self. You would cultivate nothing and you would create nothing — you would just survive.

On the other hand, you could cultivate life, health and culture. This would mean taking shelter in the best home you could obtain and, for vitality, you would by necessity move some trees from the forest near your home, bringing with them the benefits of tranquility, beauty, cooling, filtration, oxygen production, community, etc. By moving the trees out of the forest, you fundamentally change their existence and potentially yours. This is why you may need an arborist.

When trees are located in forests, they are in competition with other trees. Most significant here is that they prune and shape themselves, reaching upward to the forest canopy to get a share of the sunlight. When removed from this competition, trees grow fat with too many branches and branches in wrong places. These fat, misshapen trees can be ugly, so arborists prune them for aesthetic reasons. Overgrown trees are also are risky.

When trees are in forests, by definition they pose less risk. Risk is the combination of the likelihood of impacting a target and the value of a potential target. Simply put, there are no bus stops in the forest, so falling limbs and trunks are unlikely to cause significant damage.

Additionally, trees in forests rarely suffer soil compaction, pollution, mechanical injury, competition from turf and harm from lawn pesticides or even the wide temperature and shade swings common in urban settings. Instead of rooting through structurally and nutritionally deficient built soils, trees in the forest grow in an ideal soil profile. Think of the marvelous combination of life and death at a forest tree’s feet, where there is layer upon layer of decaying leaves and the organisms that burrow there.

For trees inside and outside forests, it’s a case of different worlds, different care.

Joshua Arp is an ISA-certified Municipal Specialist, a Clarks Summit Tree Commissioner and an operator of a landscape maintenance business. He can be reached at josarhuap@aol.com.