Trees pay us back: Urban trees make a good investment

March 9, 2011

As California celebrates Arbor Day this week (March 7), let's pause to ask ourselves: What is the true value of a tree? It may be priceless in the beauty it brings to a street, city park or backyard, but can an actual dollar amount be placed on its worth? The USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station's (PSW) scientists have found that for every $1 spent on planting and caring for a tree, the benefits that it provides are two to five times that investment. Benefits include cleaner air, lower energy costs, increased property values and improved water quality and storm water control.

Scientists collected and analyzed cost and benefit data on large, medium, and small trees in 16 communities across the nation. They compared costs, such as tree purchase/planting, pruning, irrigation and pest control, with benefits, such as increased property value, runoff reduction, energy savings and reduction. A large tree in the Northern California Coast region, for example, will return a benefit of $101 a year. One in the Inland Empire will net $66 annually. These findings are detailed in a series of brochures, which were produced in partnership with CAL FIRE Urban and Community Forestry, examining trees in California's Inland Empire and Valleys, Southern and Northern California Coast, Desert and Mountain climate regions. Brochures covering 10 more U.S. climate regions will be available later this month. The brochures can be found at:

"As communities continue to grow during the next decade, sustaining healthy community forests becomes integral to the quality of life residents expect," says Dr. Greg McPherson, PSW research forester with the Urban Ecosystems and Social Dynamics Program. "The role of urban forests to enhance the environment, increase community attractiveness and livability, and foster civic pride is taking on greater significance as communities strive to balance economic growth with environmental quality and social well-being. The simple act of planting trees provides opportunities to connect residents with nature and with each other. Neighborhood tree plantings and stewardship projects stimulate investment by local citizens, business, and government in the betterment of their communities."

Explore further: Shade trees fight global warming in Calif.

More information: The research information and findings are integrated into i-Tree Streets, a free software program that quantifies and puts a dollar value on the street trees' annual environmental and aesthetic benefits. For more information, go to:

Related Stories

Indianapolis trees provide $5.7M in benefits

May 15, 2008

U.S. Forest Service scientists with the Center for Urban Forest Research have completed a study that found planting and nurturing Indianapolis street trees brought a 500 percent return in benefits from storm water reduction, ...

Some city trees may discourage 'shady' behavior

November 1, 2010

Along with energy conservation and storm-water reduction, scientists may soon be adding crime-fighting to the list of benefits that urban trees provide. Researchers with the U.S. Forest Service's Pacific Northwest (PNW) and ...

Recommended for you

Asteroid impact, volcanism were one-two punch for dinosaurs

October 1, 2015

Berkeley geologists have uncovered compelling evidence that an asteroid impact on Earth 66 million years ago accelerated the eruptions of volcanoes in India for hundreds of thousands of years, and that together these planet-wide ...

History shows more big wildfires likely as climate warms

October 5, 2015

The history of wildfires over the past 2,000 years in a northern Colorado mountain range indicates that large fires will continue to increase as a result of a warming climate, according to new study led by a University of ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Mar 10, 2011
In care of humans an Urban Tree's existence is: "Mean, Nasty, Brutal, and Short!"
Resident are 'On the move'; average time at one address: 5 years.
Hence, 'A Tree' on private property, exists at the whim of the current occupant/owner!
Trees, under care of government workers fare little better, most are 'pruned' to an early death, by people who know little about tree care!

Citrus trees can live more than 700 years. (documented)
Sequoias: A couple millennium!
Amidst humans, a 'Tree' will seldom attain 40 years existence!
Example: The next HOA manager may view trees differently, seeing them as a Liability!
So the Trees exist at the manager's whim!
Trees Are Valuable, and contribute much to our lives, as listed in the article, but Trees can't Vote; on either their care or their existence!

Roy J Stewart,
Phoenix AZ

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.