By Tim Clancy.
Trees add to our enjoyment of our daily living. Providing habitat for local fauna, screening from annoying situations, they are harvested for wood to build our homes and fuel our fireplaces. They have served humans in many ways since the beginning.
The benefits of trees are discussed on a regular basis in the press and amongst officials that are responsible to manage our cities and towns. We hear about how trees can help alleviate climate change along with a myriad of other benefits. Over the years much time and effort has been utilized in quantifying those benefits.
The U.S. Forest Service has developed a set of tools that are used to put a dollar value on kilowatts of energy savings, improvements to air quality, carbon sequestered and stored and even water treatment through rain interception.
Cruise on over to itreetools.org and check out the various tools available. For the homeowner you can use MyTree. This software allows you to enter information about the trees in your neighborhood. Once you have finished entering the information you click the calculate command and you will be presented with a report detailing the benefits of your tree. For this article I ran a report on an oak tree located 20-39 feet from a building on the southwest side.
The results were $24.97 in annual benefits, which doesn’t seem like much but if you multiply it by the total number of trees in a typical HOA or City those numbers add up to substantial amounts. For our sample tree we get, 17.81 lbs. of sequestered carbo dioxide, 1,444 gallons of intercepted rainwater and 182 gallons of runoff avoided. Our oak saves us almost $21.00 in energy costs. To date, over its lifetime, our 25” diameter tree has stored 10,767 pounds of carbon dioxide at a value of $250.00.
Besides MyTree, the more adventurous of you can check out canopy cover for your town or city or even you HOA or part of your neighborhood. No special knowledge is required, just start up the iCanopy software and follow the instructions and soon you will be able to speak at the next city council meeting and demand more canopy cover.
iTree Eco is the workhorse of the iTree tool suite. This program analyzes data from large datasets and turns out reports used by cities, universities and other owners of large amounts of trees. There is a sample project with the software in case you want to get a feel for the reports available. I recently ran a report for a city in upstate New York and, among other things, discovered that the estimated replacement value of the population was nearly $15,000,000 for around 6,000 trees. The total estimated benefits from that tree population were in the neighborhood of 1,800,000 per year. So you see our sample tree at $21.00 per year doesn’t seem like much but when added to all the other trees in a certain area the amounts are substantial.