REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Trees are known to have several beneficial effects on urban environments, including improving property values, reducing pollution, and decreasing stress and fatigue. After 30 years, researcher David Nowack is attempting to translate this worth into a dollar value to prove why these effects are so beneficial.

Nowack is a lead researcher at the U.S. Forest Service's Northern Research Station in Syracuse, New York. He's also one of the founding developers fo the Forest Service's free software program called i-Tree. The software uses GIS and a set of algorithms to produced detailed inventories of urban canopies and determine a dollar value.

A recent i-Tree analysis of Austin, Texas estimated that trees save that city nearly $19 million annually in reduced building-energy use, some $5 million in reduced carbon emissions, and account for about $16 billion as standalone physical assets. Past that, they’re worth $3 million per year in their reduction of air pollution (based on avoided respiratory health problems), and nearly $12 million per year in the amount of carbon they sequester.

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