Depending upon species, past management history, site and chance, some branches will always be occupying inappropriate areas for a particular use or value objective. Risk management dictates that out-of-place branches, or branches that will become problems for the tree structurally be removed early. Remove branches that are too low, growing in the wrong direction, or will be prone to structural weakness due to position or form.
Most branches that exist today on a small tree will have been removed by the time the tree reaches maturity. These temporary branches are critical to growth regulation, food production and allocation, and resource capture. Selective lower branch removal over time will be important but must be carefully completed. Treat these lower branches as temporary food production and storage facilities that will allow the tree to grow large quickly. If allowed by site use and risk assessment, keep temporary branches on a tree as long as possible if they represent no structural problem. Green branches represent a great asset for the tree and should not be removed without serious consideration.
Over time, branch clearances will be important for the tree in a landscape. Different clearance heights are required for safety and risk aversion. Walking, skating, or bike riding beneath a tree requires 3-4 meters in clearance, while trees bordering roadways may need 7-8 meters clearance. Some clearances are set by ordinances or regulations. Trees that normally maintain branches down to ground level should, at a minimum, be pruned-up so rain-burdened branches do not have contact with the soil. Arborists should assure that tree crowns are not raised too quickly which will permanently damage trees and make them more susceptible to stress problems. Remove 20% or less of the living crown in any one year.