Sunday, April 15, 2012

What is the value of Durham's green canopy?

One of the distinctive features of our neighborhood and the neighborhoods around is the abundance of mature trees (mostly oaks),  a true urban forest, shielding our houses from excessive heat and bathing the whole neighborhood in the sea of green from early March until late October. This vegetation is a critical part of the appeal of this neighborhood's character and, despite Duke Power's best efforts at decimating our urban canopy (a subject I covered in my previous posts), this part of town retains some of the most strikingly beautiful tree-lined streets in the city.

In addition to their aesthetic value, mature forest canopy diretcly translates into increased property values. On Bull City Mutterings, Reyn Bowman, writes that according to researchers looking at apartment rents in Portland each tree on a house's lot increase smoothly rent by $5.62 and a tree in the public right of way by a whopping $21.00. Furthermore, according to this research, presence of mature trees increases the property value by the average of 2%, not inconsequential amount given that the current average listing price of homes in our neighborhood is close to $300,000 (see below)
Taken from Trulia Trends

But what is the value of Durham's green canopy as a whole? Surely, it goes beyond simply increasing values of individual properties, given the crucial role mature trees play in air filtration, carbon sequestration, heat reduction, stormwater treatment, and a host of other benefits. The researchers at the U.S. Forest Service Department have examined this issue closely using our neighbor to the West, Tennessee, as an example.

According to their report, each urban tree in the state provides an estimated $2.25 worth of measurable economic benefits every year. It may not seem like a lot until one realizes that there are over 284 million such trees in that state. Thus, through energy savings, air and water filtering and carbon storage, the urban trees of Tennessee account for more than $638 million in benefits. Although the Forestry Service has not done similar survey of North Carolina trees, it is likely that their economic impact and value to the community will be comparable, if not greater.

I have not been able to find a tree census for either Durham or North Carolina as a whole, but think Tennessee data underscore the critical role urban trees play in making our city livable and beautiful.

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