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How much should a tree be worth? Experts say cities should consider climate-related benefits

Stephanie Dubois 2022-Jul-12


Some of the benefits of trees are often unaccounted for, particularly in urban centres, including the cooling effect of trees and potential energy savings, their ability to capture carbon and their role in maintaining biodiversity. These aspects need to be assessed to determine a tree's true value, experts say, to encourage the preservation of the current tree population — and to better protect the next generation of growth.The benefits of single tree or an urban forest, including reducing carbon dioxide and air pollution and helping with stormwater runoff, are important consideration for organizations and city leaders. According to its website, almost 8,000 Canadian organizations and municipalities have used i-Tree, a tool to measure and help understand the benefits of trees for public health, biodiversity, and other factors which are hard to quantify.

Experts say ongoing monitoring of trees and long-term planning around our urban forests will be critical. As a result, keeping the trees alive is more important than planting them. The average urban tree doesn't often get older than 30, or 40 years. If the trees' existing lifespan can be doubled, trees can provide better ecosystem services, they added.In urban settings, citizens need to be good stewards of the existing tree population and protect them as best they can. Ziter said researchers are currently looking at how the environmental value of trees may evolve over the years, as that, too, will be crucial for both current and future urban trees.

For example, if we think about the benefits of a tree in terms of temperature regulation or flooding today, those trees may be even more important in a future that is hotter or that floods more often, she said. Or maybe those trees will no longer be enough to provide that benefit in the future. How we value our trees can't be a static approach, these assessments should account for the changes we expect to see when it comes to climate.Trees take a long time to grow. In terms of practical applications, the trees we plant now are the trees that we will benefit from 10, 50, or 100 years from now.

Tags: Ecosystem services, Environmental impacts of trees, Statistics, Finances

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