Realising the value of trees

Tree in Blockhouse ParkWhat is a tree worth? Sounds like a daft question, doesn’t it?

Trees can’t be worth anything. They’re trees. They don’t go out to work, people don’t pay to see them. They just sit there being trees. If anything they cost us money to maintain, don’t they?

Well, as it turns out, thanks to an innovative new project, trees can be worth quite a lot.

The Council have teamed up with a company called Treeconomics to launch the iTree Eco survey, a city wide look at all the trees within 280 representative plots.

It’s all part of the Plymouth Tree Challenge, a project hatched with the Woodland Trust and the Postcode Lottery, according to last year’s Plan for Trees.

iTree volunteersThe results of the survey will provide us with stats and figures about the monetary value of our urban forest and the benefits provided by those trees.

For example, in addition to a tree’s carbon storage, which we know is beneficial in our fight against climate change, does it also improve the health of the people who live near it? What does that save in terms of healthcare and wellbeing costs?

Trees absorb large amounts of water. Does the water retention of a tree mean that less rain water ends up in the drains? What does this mean for maintenance costs and savings in flood prevention?

Do our urban trees provide potential savings to residents in terms of filtering wind, providing shade and therefore reducing heating costs? These are the questions that we’re hoping to answer.

This project is made all the more impressive considering we are using local people-power and community volunteers to clamber through wooded areas, measuring and identifying trees.

At each plot, a number of details will be recorded including the species, the measurements of the tree, the size of the canopy and where it is in location to buildings, other trees, roads or green space. All of these numbers will then be crunched by Treeconomics to come up with a value of our urban forest and the natural benefits they provide.

There will be two phases to the project. The first will inform a report and then in the second phase, we’ll use the info we’ve collected to help enhance future tree cover. We’ll be able to identify and understand the potential planting space in Plymouth, to influence planning decisions so that urban trees are at the heart of the city’s future.

Councillor Sue Dann is the Cabinet member for Street Scene and the Environment. As part of her remit, Sue is charged with tackling the climate emergency, declared by the Council earlier in the year.

“Trees and green space are crucial to tackling our climate emergency,” she explains.

“The idea that trees can have a monetary value – it could be completely revolutionise the way we plan green space.

“The stats and data that we get will give us a real chance to be able to make important decisions that balance growth and care for the environment with all of the facts in front of us.”

More information on the project can be found here