An idea borne of researchers at Pacific Southwest Research Station, Berkeley, Calif., back in the 1960s and '70s has reached international status, with the help of the Internet. In the 1960s, Dr. Lee Paine began recording incidents of tree failure in order to develop a database accessible to tree care professionals in California, known as the California Tree Failure Reporting Program. From that idea (with a few changes along the way) came the International Tree Failure Database (ITFD), an Internet-based method for collecting specific information about trees that have failed structurally. Data collectors are noting, among other items, whether the failure was trunk, branch or root; whether the failed portion was dead, decaying or live; if the roots were broken, cut, lifted out of the ground or restricted physically; pruning history, including proper or excessive and much more. The goal is to alter planting and care practices, if indicated, and to be able to recognize any warning signs for hazardous situations prior to the actual event. In order to become a data collector, you must first attend a sponsored training session, performed primarily by federal forest service professionals. In 2006, trainings have been held in Rochester, Minn., Bismarck, N.D., and Charlottesvlle, W.V. There are a few scheduled in March 2006. As of mid February 2006, there were 4,627 reports in the ITFD database. Reports will be released online after a significant number of reports are entered for a particular geographic area. Follow their progress by accessing An easy adjustment to your routine can make a difference.

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