Values of Urban Trees - national forest service on the true value of a tree to the home owner and the community

Submitted by Quest-News-Serv... on Sun, 04/14/2013 - 23:16.

The basis for the value of an urban tree could be emotional, aesthetic, or it could be strictly utilitarian. However, people seldom perceive value as strictly aesthetic or monetary. There is often substantial overlap that makes "value" difficulty to classify. In many communities, public spending on tree care and management reflects an approximate value of trees. Spending patterns that go unchallenged, especially among an informed public, indicate the value people associate with trees.

The following categories describe different values that people place on trees. They are arranged primarily by their measurability. The least measurable values are discussed first.

Psychological and Aesthetic Values
Although difficult to gauge, uplifted spirits is one important benefit of trees. Some of the difficulty in measuring these benefits may grow out of society's decision to exclude tree values from the marketplace. Other emotion-based commodities, such as flowers, perfume, view property, prestige automobiles, and entertainment, are readily assigned monetary values. But with proper treatment, researchers can tie monetary values to the emotional benefits of trees.

The pleasure and good feelings we associate with trees may be far more practical than generally believed. Data on the connection between vegetation and human health are beginning to accumulate. For example, surgery patients who could see a grove of deciduous trees recuperated faster and required less pain-killing medicine than matched patients who viewed only brick walls. And, prisoners with cells overlooking green landscapes used prison health facilities significantly less than prisoners whose cells provided views of other prison facilities. The vaguely expressed "enjoyment" people associate with trees may be partly a subconscious sign of substantial health benefits.

Social Values
In Oakland, California, a neighborhood tree planting program generated community identity, cooperation, and benefits similar to those reported for urban gardening. After coming together to plant trees, Oakland residents continued working together with "paint-up-fix-up parties", neighborhood protective societies, and community gardens.

Historic Values
Trees provide important symbolic links with the past. If a living tree is associated with important events, the tree takes on historical values unrelated to aesthetics or usefulness. For example, a community would normally value a tree that shaded the deliberations of the community's founders. A tree would also be valuable if planted by George Washington or some other important figure in history. Aside from specific events, old trees may be regarded as important simply because they have lived through eras with which we have few other connections.

As for emotional and aesthetic values, historic values of trees depend primarily on community attitudes. If historic trees are threatened by changes, such as new buildings and street widening, the issue will usually be settled by public pressure not by market forces.