A network of nutrient, water, and energy transport tubes lies just beneath the outer layer of bark on your tree's trunk. Girdling is a type of damage that prevents these tubes from transport ingnutrients or worse, removes them completely. When severe, removal of the tree is necessary, as it won't be able to survive.
There are three main types of girdling — bark girdling, rope girdling, and root girdling. Bark girdling is the result of bark removal around the tree trunk. The removal could happen due to mechanical damage, such as constantly bumping up against the trunk with a lawn mower. Insects or birds like woodpeckers drilling or eating the bark may cause this type of girdling, as well. Girdling can also happen when ropes, straps, or wires are tied around the trunk and then left in place. The rope constricts the trunk as the tree grows, eventually girdling it. Root girdling is similar, except it is one of the tree's own surface roots that gets wrapped around the base of the trunk.
Damage can be severe. If the bark of a tree is completely girdled all the way around the trunk, then death is assured because the tree has no way to transport water or nutrients between the roots and leaves anymore. Partial girdling can weaken a tree by slowing energy and nutrient transport, but pests are more of a concern. With the bark missing and the bare wood exposed, the tree is more open to infection by disease, fungal spores, and insect pests. The weakened tree will have more issues fighting off these pests in its partially girdled state.
Recovery or Removal
As long as the trunk isn't girdled completely around its circumference, there is hope for its recovery. If a rope or similar item is the cause of the girdling, prompt removal is often all that is needed for the tree to fully recover. For root girdling, a tree care service can carefully locate the problem roots and cut through them to prevent continued girdling. The problem roots may need to be pruned back so that they don't regrow or protrude from the ground. Bark girdling requires more care and is more likely to result in the need for removal. If the wound is small, the bark surrounding the wound will need to be trimmed to a clean edge to promote quick healing. For larger wounds that go more than halfway around the trunk, removal may be the best option since recovery is less likely. Removal may also be the best option if pests or disease are already attacking the weakened tree.
Contact a tree removal service like Robert Jefferies Logging & Tree Service if you suspect that your tree is suffering from fatal girdling damage.