Trees provide numerous benefits for urban residents, including reduced energy usage, improved air quality, stormwater management, carbon sequestration, and increased property values. Quantifying these benefits can help justify the costs of planting trees. In this paper, we use i-Tree Streets to quantify the benefits of street trees planted by nonprofits in three U.S. cities (Detroit, Michigan; Indianapolis, Indiana, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) from 2009 to 2011. We also use both measured and modeled survival and growth rates to “grow” the tree populations 5 and 10 years into the future to project the future benefits of the trees under different survival and growth scenarios. The 4059 re-inventoried trees (2864 of which are living) currently provide almost $40,000 (USD) in estimated annual benefits ($9–$20/tree depending on the city), the majority (75%) of which are increased property values. The trees can be expected to provide increasing annual benefits during the 10 years after planting if the annual survival rate is higher
than the 93% annual survival measured during the establishment period. However, our projections show that with continued 93% or lower
annual survival, the increase in annual benefits from tree growth will not be able to make up for the loss of benefits as trees die. This means that estimated total annual benefits from a cohort of planted trees will decrease between the 5-year projection and the 10-year projection. The results of this study indicate that without early intervention to ensure survival of planted street trees, tree mortality may be significantly undercutting the ability of tree-planting programs to provide benefits to neighborhood residents.
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