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This sign was attached to a tree near my house.

Did you hear or read the Arbor Day reports on the financial benefits of trees? On American Public Media’s Marketplace,  they used i-tree to calculate the value of single trees as well as entire urban plantings. A ficus tree near the program’s office (in LA) was worth $152 a year. The trees in Oakville, Ontario are worth $2.5 million a year, and Pittsburgh figures that it generates $3 of benefit for every dollar it invests in tree planting. The benefits include carbon absorption, building shading, stormwater retention, air quality, water filtration, and property value.

According to another calculator, National Tree Benefits, my Norway maples provide over $200 per year each. I had kind of assumed all this, but having it all interpreted by the numbers does alleviate—somewhat—the many downsides of being surrounded by so many trees in such a tight space.

 The report does leave some financial aspects out. The ficus in LA, for example, probably has an extensive root system near the surface that can cause sidewalk cracking and heaving. My maples have already cost at least one year’s worth of their value at least (maybe two) in Roto Rooter visits.  And all tree maintenance tends to be expensive. So the report doesn’t include all the numbers. But it will be helpful in justifying re-treeing efforts and in countering people who leave chilling comments like these (from the Marketplace site):

A tree near a house is a killer. That’s all. You may value it at $152 or $152000 or any arbitrary number you stupidly choose. My life is worth more than that, so I had the trees on my property eliminated.

I always forget that there are people like this.


Posted by

Elizabeth Licata
on April 29, 2013 at 7:23 am, in the category Gardening on the Planet.


  1. Excellent point you have made but I guess point made through the sign was to realize common people about the benefits trees bring to the entire community and that people should plant more and more trees.

  2. The calculators generous estimates include the assumption that every tree is perfectly placed to provide maximum shade and that storm run-off water gets absorbed instantly, rather than slowly.

  3. I suspect inflated estimates like these do more damage than good. Tree huggers will still hug trees, but enviro-skeptics will probably be more skeptical of any other numerical data provided by environmental groups in support of their agenda.

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