Economic Valuation for Preservation of Trees in Urban Areas

Authors: Abigail Kessi*, University of Portland, Sasha Lower, University of Portland, Isabella Neuzil, University of Portland, Ted Eckmann, University of Portland
Topics: Economic Geography, Sustainability Science, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: economic, value, air pollution, giant sequoia
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Balcony L, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This study was conducted in response to plans by administrators at the University of Portland (UP) in Portland, Oregon (USA) to cut down eight giant sequoias, Sequoiadendron giganteum, to make room for the construction of a new academic building on the UP campus. In an attempt to save these sequoias, we calculated the effects of these eight trees on building energy savings, in addition to removing air pollutants such as carbon dioxide, ozone, sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide, and particulate matter. We then calculated the associated reduction in healthcare costs and missed work due to the amounts of air pollutants removed by these trees. We also calculated the economic value of these trees in carbon storage and carbon sequestration. However, our results show the largest economic benefits of these trees are in the form of improving hydrologic stability. In response to the efforts of co-authors of this study, and others in the UP community, UP administrators agreed to only cut down four giant sequoias instead of the eight originally planned. Our economic modeling suggests these efforts to save the trees therefore saved UP over $700,000 in direct costs from increased energy bills, air pollutant exposure, and hydrologic problems, which would have occurred if UP administrators had followed their original plan to cut down all eight trees. The modeling framework developed by this study could be applied elsewhere to quantify economic values of other large trees and illuminate to stakeholders the value that such trees provide.

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