The Economic Case for Protecting Trees in Cities

A recently published article reports on the research of US Forest Service’s Northern Research Station makes the case for the economic benefits of trees in cities.  Given the current planning scheme amendments under consideration, this makes for an interesting and relevant read…

David Nowak whittles down 30 years of studying the economic value of forests to this advice: If you can only plant one tree, plant it in a city.

After all, in an era of overwhelming need for urban infrastructure improvements, trees offer cities some of the best bang for their buck. Trees remove carbon dioxide, filter air pollution, and produce oxygen. They absorb rainwater, UV radiation, and noise. They slow down traffic, improve property values, and reduce human stress and mental fatigue. And they provide shade, which means we have to use less energy to cool down.

“Trees help us avoid emissions in the first place, in addition to taking out carbon,” says Nowak, a lead researcher at the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Research Station in Syracuse, New York. “It’s a big problem that they help us solve.”

2014-07-20 14.46.16
No trees?
Trees or…


Council has received feedback arguing that:

  • Canopy trees will increase heating and lighting costs,
  • Canopy trees will cause carbon dioxide poisoning, and
  • Canopy trees are an unnecessary risk, cost and nuisance.

It is perhaps timely to consider some scientifically based research.

If trees bring economic benefits to cities, what is the cost of their removal?  And who pays for that?

The answer to the first question is hard to quantify for Monash but, in qualitative terms, the cost of removal is the economic benefit lost through the absence of those trees.

The answer to the second is much easier.  Ratepayers pay for all council expenses ultimately; either through increased rates (difficult under the present capping scheme) or through reduced services and infrastructure maintenance.

Councillor Brian Little has been watching the tree coverage using overhead imagery available on the “NearMap” website.  I won’t put words in his mouth here but Monash’s tree canopy is diminishing rapidly and that’s something we all should be worried about.




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