Trees are quiet, humble, magnificent things. It’s difficult to put a price on something like a tree. What’s each tree actually worth?
Researchers from the U.S. Forest Service in partnership with the University of California, Davis set out to do exactly that: figure out what a tree is “worth” to society.
The Forest Service had data on about 900,000 trees that line each of California’s public streets. These were the trees analyzed in the study. The researchers looked at the economic benefit of carbon storage, rainfall interception, air pollution mitigation, and energy savings.
The researchers estimated that the trees contribute about $1 billion each year – about $111 for each of the state’s 9 million trees.
In total, the vast majority of that value comes from property value. Trees add about $839 million to property values in the state.
The study also found that trees are useful due to their natural ability to fight climate change. Not only do they soak up carbon dioxide, but they also shade homes and act as windbreaks, which lowers the energy footprint of the homes they’re planted near.
The emissions sequestered by trees, 600,000 metric tons of CO2 all together, accounts for about $110 million. The pollution reduction is the same as removing 120,000 cars from the road. Trees also pull ozone and particulate matter out of the air, contributing another $18 million to the total.
So where do we go from here? Trees are valuable, not just for looks, but economically too! This study can be especially useful to urban foresters and city planners in making a strong pitch for more aggressive tree planting in cities.
Foresters can also look to this study to see which types of native trees are most useful to the communities in which they grow, not just economically useful but environmentally useful.
The truth is, there is a racial and socioeconomic aspect to the way we plant trees, which is truly tragic. It’s been proven that trees are most often planted in wealthier, whiter communities.
But is there even space to plant more trees? Yes. According to the researchers, there’s enough vacant space in our cities to plant another 16 million trees.