How Much is a Tree Worth to a City?

Nate Berg reports on several recent pilot studies that have quantified the economic, aesthetic and energy saving benefits of urban trees and why the costs for replacing them can be formidable.
April 12, 2012, 5am PDT | Alesia Hsiao
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While the aesthetic value of street trees may be easy to appreciate, a recent study of Tennessee's urban trees aimed to monetize the much wider range of benefits that such trees can provide to their communities, demonstrating that such benefits can amount to millions in savings.

According to the Forest Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who released the results of their pilot study earlier this year, "through energy savings, air and water filtering and carbon storage, the urban trees of Tennessee account for more than $638 million in benefits," without considering aesthetic values.

"The method used for estimating tree values is commonly used and was developed by the Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers." Indiana, Wisconsin, New Jersey and Colorado have also started to appraise the value of trees by conducting similar pilot studies, notes Berg.

The Tennessee report also calls attention to the cost of threats to trees from various invasive species and diseases. "If every urban tree in the state were to die, the cost of replacing them is estimated at $79.5 billion." The astronomical price tag highlights the importance of doing more work to counteract these dangers.

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Published on Monday, April 9, 2012 in The Atlantic Cities
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