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Jeremy Barrell


Jeremy Barrell
Managing Director of Barrell Tree Consultancy, UK

Short biography

Jeremy Barrell founded Barrell Tree Consultancy ( in 1995, one of Britain’s largest Arboricultural Practices in the planning and legal sectors.  He leads 15 people,specialising in assessing trees on construction sites and project managing their protection through to occupation.

His career began with the British Forest Service in 1978, establishing his own tree contracting business in 1980, which evolved into his present consultancy practice.  He is a regular keynote speaker at international conferences, authoring more than 115 articles and papers on tree management.  His practical experience is the foundation of his trademark “no-nonsense” approach to solving tree problems.

Conference session presentation – Arboriculture: smarter thinking for a brighter future

UK arboriculture has its origins in forestry, which is reflected in many of the principles that arborists use for managing trees in the built environment.  One such example is the forestry concept of sustained yield, where the management objective is to secure a regular flow of timber products from the forest unit. The arboricultural equivalent is sustained amenity, where the product is visual amenity instead of timber, but the underlying principle is exactly the same;  creating a succession of age classes so that the cycle of removal and replacement has minimal visual impact.

In principle, borrowing is fine when new ideas are thin on the ground and there is some urgency to make progress.  Indeed,there is certainly no benefit in wasting effort reinventing work that has already been done.  However, as experience begins to highlight flaws in the original adaptations, there comes a time to move on and fine-tune traditional approaches to take account of emerging societal concerns and research.  Of course, easy to say, but very hard to do as people become entrenched in what they know and change is the demon to tear down their familiar world.  An obvious example of failing to adapt a traditional mind-set into a modern context is the concept of rotation length,i.e. the optimum time to fell and replace, depending on the objectives of management.  There is no doubt that it works well in the forest, where the economic benefits are well-understood, but it no longer sits comfortably in modern arboriculture, and especially with trees that have subtler values beyond the financial.

Rotation length has served forestry well, but it is a forestry construct, and that is where it belongs, in the forest.  The idea that there comes a time when all trees need to be felled and replaced no longer has traction in modern arboriculture, and it is time for it to drift out of the common vocabulary.  For the bulk of forest and urban tree management, value increases from planting to a point where it peaks and then declines, but for some trees, it is different.  For exceptional trees of special interest,value continues to increase over time and beyond death, which renders the idea of a formal rotation length meaningless. Instead, the focus shifts towards retaining special trees, both in life and in death, and genetic continuity, through propagating a new incarnation of the original individual.  This fresh perspective has the traditionalists in a spin, so what is it all about?

In this talk, Jeremy will set out his modern take on mainstream arboriculture and explain why arborists need to move on from an obsession with tree science to focus on the psychology of the public we are managing them for.  There is a bright future for arborists who understand that public engagement is the key to modernising arboriculture, and trees with stories and cultural connections are the way to do it.  Heritage trees is likely to be the most effective mechanism for moving arboriculture up to the next level, but it will take an open mind and a wise disposition to embrace the change.


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