Help & Advice / What is Arboriculture?

What is Arboriculture?

It is increasingly recognised that trees are good for us, and provide a wide range of environmental, social and economic benefits to society. However, not everyone knows about the profession which is responsible for these amenity trees: arboriculture.

Arboricultural professionals work with amenity trees – those found in private gardens, public parks and open spaces, schools, churchyards, playgrounds, urban woodlands and nature reserves and alongside roads, railway lines and routes for utilities like electricity pylons. This is very different from the management of trees in other situations, for example as part of forestry (silviculture) for timber production.

Amenity trees do many different things at once, including cleaning the air, reducing temperatures, alleviating the effects and environmental impact of climate change, capturing carbon and improving our physical health and mental wellbeing to name just a few. Trees, and arboriculture, make our communities healthier, happier and stronger.

This brief guide has been created by the Arboricultural Association, with input from a wide range of our colleagues around the world, to help answer the question what is arboriculture?

Click here to download the Members Handbook

Download the Waht is Arboriculture? leaflet


The Arboricultural Association defines arboriculture as the science and practice of the cultivation, establishment and management of amenity trees for the benefit of society.

Other organisations may describe it slightly differently, but ultimately the meaning is the same: arboriculture is tree care.

A call to action

If we are to enjoy healthy, resilient and effective amenity trees then we need a healthy, resilient and effective arboricultural profession. We must inspire, support and promote those people already working in tree care, and encourage others to join the sector.

We must work across different disciplines and with the general public, politicians and policymakers for the good of our trees and our communities. Arboriculture is a diverse, exciting and independent profession, and it must be recognised as such if it is to fulfil its enormous potential.

Job roles

Every amenity tree you see in your day-to-day lives is there because of the work of a long chain of professionals, perhaps dozens or even hundreds of individuals working in different areas of arboriculture, all part of the tree care community.

Below is a very basic summary of what some of those roles involve (please note that there will sometimes be overlap between roles – for example, a tree officer might work with privately owned and public realm trees).

Tree production

The nursery industry produces all of the amenity trees we plant, caring for them for the first years of their lives and developing new varieties and cultivars for our treescapes.

Tree officers

The custodians of amenity trees, often working for local government and responsible for inspecting, specifying and managing trees, as well as community engagement and liaising with the general public.

Planning tree officers

In the UK, planning tree officers work in local government and are responsible for overseeing trees in relation to development as well as Tree Preservation Orders.


Practical tree workers (tree surgeons) are the professionals who actually undertake tree work, including planting, pruning, remedial work and removals.


Arboricultural consultants undertake diagnostic work, design, inspections and report writing, sometimes specialising in particular areas such as risk management, subsidence or diagnostics.

Trainers and educators

Working in our colleges, universities and training providers, these are the people who ensure that knowledge and skills are developed and then maintained.

Producers and suppliers

All of the equipment used in arboriculture, including established tools and accessories as well as innovations, are designed and built by someone.


Arboriculture is a fast-moving and relatively young profession, and our researchers and scientists are at the forefront of our developing knowledge base in every area of our industry.


Writing and contributing to local, national and international policies and legislation which ensures that trees are high on the agenda, policymakers are often a key link with government.


Many charities, not-for-profit and non-governmental organisations devote themselves to promoting the importance of trees and tree workers.

Professional organisations

The groups who offer a professional home, representation, support and accreditation for professionals working in every area and at every level of arboriculture.

Volunteer groups

Whilst they are not always arboricultural professionals, the input of volunteers and community groups in caring for their trees is absolutely essential to the success of our treescapes.

Cross-sector and international collaboration

Whilst arboriculture is an independent profession and is not part of forestry, horticulture, agriculture, ecology or any other ‘environmental’ sector, it is essential that we all work together for the common good. This also includes colleagues working in less obviously related fields such as engineering, urban design, construction, climate, social science, education and healthcare to name but a few.

Trees and the issues affecting them – such as the climate emergency and pests and diseases – do not recognise international borders, and we cannot afford to do so either. Arboriculturists all over the world work together to share knowledge and experiences through organisations such as the Arboricultural Association, the International Society of Arboriculture and the European Arboricultural Council. We are united in our passion for trees.

Produced in partnership with:

The International Society of Arboriculture logo
The European Arboricultural Council logo
European Forum on Urban Forestry logo
Association of Tree Officers logo
Municipal Tree Officers Association logo
London Tree Officers Association logo
Lantra Awards logo
Lantra Awards logo
Latin American Arboricultural Institute logo
New Zealand Arboricultural Association Inc. logo
Department for Environmental Food & Rural Affairs
The Forestry Commission
TheNew  Arboricultural Association logo

About the Arboricultural Association

The Arboricultural Association is a charity and professional membership organisation for those working in arboriculture. The Association works to advance the science of arboriculture and raise awareness and knowledge of tree care, delivering our vision of inspiring, supporting and promoting the tree care community for a society that better appreciates and cares for trees. To learn more about the Association please visit www.trees.org.uk

Find the right professional

The Arboricultural Association administers accreditation schemes which allow tree owners and managers to identify arboricultural professionals who meet the highest standards of technical competency and safety.

To find an Arboricultural Association Approved Contractor, visit trees.org.uk/Find-a-Tree-Surgeon

To find an Arboricultural Association Registered Consultant, visit trees.org.uk/Find-a-Consultant

The ARB Approved Contractor logo
The AA Registered Consultant logo