Well, Al Zelaya might beg to differ. He's been working
on tree valuation for quite a while
and he’s about to show us just how to value a tree. I
think you’ll discover that we’ve been underestimating the value of
trees over the course of their lifetime.
On a micro level, homeowners can often be unsure of how to
value the trees on their property. But, Al’s team understands
the various values people should consider. When it comes to
investing in trees, homeowners can realize increased
property values, reduced energy costs, even a decrease in the
amount of time a home may be on the market.
I said at the top of the show, there’s that old saying that,
"money doesn’t grow on trees".
But, Al would beg to differ.
There is a monetary value to the services trees
Here are just a few of the benefits that Al and his team, as
well as many other researchers, are working to ascribe
monetary value to:
First, trees reduce energy
demand. For instance, homes use less AC when
they have the benefit of a large tree canopy providing
shade. Furthermore, that energy reduction means that
power generators don’t have to make as much power for
communities. It's a win win.
Another important benefit provided by trees is that they are
an important part of a climate adaptation
strategy in the face of global warming.
During photosynthesis trees use carbon
dioxide, one of the culprits of global warming. In
fact, half of the weight of trees is
carbon - they are massive carbon
sinks or masters of sequestering
carbon (as Al likes to say).
We know trees also reduce
stress and there are a number of researchers working
on trying to quantify this benefit.
Trees also reduce pollutant
concentration and improve public health. Have
you ever thought of trees in terms of public
health? You should. In fact, it’s one of the
areas where Al and his team have been making great
strides. We know that trees intercept air pollution - so they
improve air quality. Specifically, trees help absorb
like ozone, nitrogen
dioxide, and sulfur
dioxide. Plus, they
matter (very fine dust particles that are in the
air). Particulate matter can have very
detrimental health impacts. So by reducing asthma
incidents or respiratory ailments, people are able to work and
kids are able to go to school. Al’s team can actually attach
a monetary value to trees in that regard, thereby making
the case for trees as a vital
investment for overall public health. Just
this one benefit is such a powerful example of the importance of
this work - the importance of calculating a value for our
Al’s work continues the legacy in urban
forestry started by Dr.
Dave Nowak of US Forest
Serviceand Dr. Greg
McPherson of the US Forest
Service. In a recent article, David
Nowak whittled down 30 years of studying
the economic value of forests to this singular piece
of advice: If you can only plant one tree, plant it in a
city. As for Dr. McPhereson, he grew up under a canopy
of American elm trees in Howell, Michigan.
Despite attempts to save them, all the trees succumbed to Dutch elm
disease. Having felt the sting of that loss, he became a green
accountant - developing new methods and
tools for quantifying the value of nature's benefits
from city trees. As Al points out, the pioneering work of Nowak,
McPherson and others, is making it possible to translate much
of this research into algorithms that
can quantify the value of trees. The array of online and
smart phone tools help all kinds of people - from middle schoolers
all the way up to watersheds.
. This is a tool that
allows you to enter your actual address
general city (for anyone in the US and Canada). You can trace
the outline of your home and actually place trees
on your property.
This tool will grow the
and project benefits of the trees. In
addition to students, landscape architects have discovered this
tool and now they are using it for their work. The design tool
gives you very interesting information - especially in how
important tree placement
can be in terms
of value. And, the design tool can even be used for large tree
planing projects. i-Tree Design
is a helpful new way of
looking at the benefits of trees. For instance, it can tell
you how much storm water
the tree is
capturing or how much carbon
tree is sequestering. i-Tree Design
monetary value of a tree over time
you’re done creating your plan, you can even
print out the report.
The report feature is
fantastic for grant applications. For example, if you’re applying
for a grant for a park, you can add this
report to strengthen your grant
. My personal favorite aspect of this
tool is that it will give you a visualization of tree
; something I appreciated when I realized
my locust tree
is pretty much at it’s mature
size. Here I'd been holding back on adding trees, when I should
have been planting more.
you that placement decisions matter - so vet where you plant your
tree to maximize benefits
. If you’re
interested in energy savings, this tool will show summer savings
and winter savings offered by the tree. Some placement is
better than others. In this tool, you can move your tree
around on the property and you can see the dollar value of the
energy savings change - going up and down based on where you
place the tree on the property. There’s an energy savings in
summer (shade) but also in the winter (wind block). And, the
species matters too. For instance, a conifer is a better wind
block than a maple. Without a doubt, species, size
and placement can play into the decision making around
placement around a home.
the online tool that works great on small devices like smart phones
and tablets. i-Tree MyTree
you to easily assess the value of one to
several trees in a mobile web browser.
It’s got more
dropdown feel and user experience..
is interesting because
you reverse engineer the species of the
you should plant by selecting the environmental
services you want the tree to provide. Super cool. Just enter your
location and height information (to address constraints with
overhead wire, etc.) With i-Tree Species
can look at tree species not just based on color in the fall - but
now also based on important functions like temperature reduction,
allergenicity, air pollution removal, carbon storage, wind
reduction, air temperature reduction (a nice climate effect during
the summer), etc. Then, based on all of those criteria, it gives
you a list of tree options that fit your criteria. It’s a
nice tool to supplement your tree selection decisions.
Here are a few important points to keep in mind for
Al correctly points out, that we tend celebrate tree planting
but we should equally celebrate tree care and
maintenance because that’s how the real value of the
tree is realized. It takes a long time for a tree to get to
maturity. We must focus on tree preservation- care and
maintenance - so that trees can be a sustainable resource.
We should strategically place trees in relation
to our homes to maximize their benefit. I asked Al to
consider the four quadrants around a home - North South
East West - and then asked, "Where does the most benefit come
from?" Al says that the first priority should be planting trees to
the West and North of the home because they give the benefit of
summer shade and winter wind block. Planting east of the house cuts
down impacts of morning sun and strong midday sun. The most
negative impact is placement to the south of the house because it
has a negative winter impact. Why? Because the sun moves a bit more
south in the winter. So, a tree to the south of the house can
actually block the sun and that equates to a negative impact in the
Finally, Al shares how to maintain great trees.
- First, become informed about your trees.
Know the species of trees on your property. Understand the
characteristics of your trees.
- Second, assess the health of your
trees. Consult an arborist or your local county
extension office. Learn about the state of your trees.
Are they healthy? What care do they need?
- Third, balance your
tree portfolio the same way you balance your
financial investments - by diversifying. Protect your tree
investment by planting greater tree diversity on your property. On
today’s episode, Al will share a number of his favorite species. So
take note of his recommendations - including the Kentucky Coffee
Tree and a number of oak trees.
The main takeaway here: If you want to enjoy the
full benefits of trees, you have to sustain them. As Al points out
at the end of the episode, trees really do pay us back
many times over. Today, we have many online
tools to choose from that can help us see the monetary value of
We’re talking trees today - how to measure their
value and services as well as some pretty
incredible free online tools anyone can
use - Here’s Growing Money: Calculating The Real
Value of Trees with Al Zelaya.
- - - - - - -
I hope today’s show gives you an extra appreciation of the
benefits and services provided by trees - from carbon storage and
intercepting storm water, to capturing pollution, increasing home
values, reducing energy costs, and of course their beauty.
For my sign-off today, I leave you with this thought to help
What is the monetary value of the trees on your property?
Use the free resources available at i-Tree Online Tools
. You will have
a more profound appreciation for your trees and I’m hoping it
sparks a commitment to tree care. As Al said, they pay us back with
a number of valuable dividends many times over.
Have a great week everyone!
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Link to this week's quotables
The Garden News Roundup
Al, can you share to the listeners what you do for the
Davey Tree Expert Company?
“Is it worth it to save a tree?” How often do answers
like these come up?
How can you best deal with stormwater
What is the general public most surprised to hear about
when they first learn about the benefits of trees?
Al, what do you think about global warming and how do
trees help or hurt that?
How can we best preserve our trees?
What trees should people plant ‘more’ of?
What can we do about Japanese beetles and how can we
protect our trees?
What resources do you recommend when it comes to
learning/caring about trees?
What’s the best direction (North, East, South, West)
should you plant a tree in?
Do you have a final piece of advice that you’d like to
share to homeowners/gardeners, Al?