We have a Japanese maple tree in our front yard that looks to have some dieback in the branches. The tree is approximately 10 or 11 years old, on the north/northeast side, and we have never had anything like this affect the tree. I would like to know if this is cause by drought or something else.
Drought could be a cause but a more likely cause could be something known as girdling root. As a tree ages, and especially with maples, the root can wrap around the trunk resulting in a lack of circulation up and down. http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/id/id50/id50.pdf