Trees save money

Trees provide millions of dollars in environmental and economic benefits such as reducing storm water runoff, energy use and air pollution in cities in Oregon and Washington, but the region’s tree cover has decreased by nearly half in 28 years, according to new research.

The research, detailed in the report, Regional Ecosystem Analysis for the Willamette/Lower Columbia Region of Northwestern Oregon and Southwestern Washington State, carried out by the NGO American Forests, is based on data from satellite images of 63 sites in the region. The sites were chosen to represent a cross section of urban environments, such as residential, industrial and commercial, an American Forests spokesman told edie. Computer analysis of the images has indicated that the trees in the region are removing 178 million pounds of pollutants each year, saving an estimated $419 million.

Tree cover also cuts down on the costs for storm water management, saving communities an estimated $20.2 million in storm water facilities, and also serve to purify water, says American Forests.

‘Green infrastructure’, also helps to shade and cool residential homes during hot summer months, reducing the need for air conditioning, with an estimated saving of $1.86 million per year – $11 per home, and preventing the emission of 140,000 tonnes of carbon.

However, despite these benefits, trees are apparently not being sufficiently valued in the region. “Our analysts found the total average tree cover for the region is 24% – down from 46% in 1972,” said Gary Moll Vice President of American Forests. “Despite good faith efforts to manage development, tree-canopy loss is a trend that is occurring in areas across the United States. As populations grow, so do the pressures on natural resources and the number of benefits that are lost.”

The report makes a number of recommendations for the region, including the maintenance of 40% tree cover, which could be achieved by incorporating a ‘green layer’ into land development decision-making, and encouraging the use of tree cover as part of the region’s strategies for storm water and air pollution standards. If urban areas in the whole of the US were to achieve 40% tree cover, American Forests estimates an additional 634 million trees would be required.

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