Treeconomics: making the case for urban trees throughout the world

We love a good neologism here, and "treeconomics" completely fits the bill. It comes from this Guardian article, on how a protest in Sheffield against the cutting-down of 11 Lime Trees (in Rustlings Road) has generated 10000 signatures. But this case opens out a window onto a global wave of urban activism, from Toronto to Devon to London, which aims to defend the care and presence of trees against developers and tightening public budgets.

An excerpt below: 

Urban trees are both treasured and in jeopardy like never before – beset by disease and spurious insurance claims, and too readily felled by cash-strapped local authorities which only see their potential cost rather than their contribution to climate, public health and even the wealth of a city. Ever since Roger Ulrich discovered in 1984 that hospital patients appear to recover more quickly from surgery in rooms with green views, a growing body of scientific evidence has demonstrated the health – and wealth – benefits of trees in cities.

In Toronto, researchers recently found that people living on tree-lined streetsreported health benefits equivalent to being seven years younger or receiving a $10,000 salary rise. As well as studies revealing benefits from everything from improved mental health to reduced asthma, US scientists have even identified a correlation between an increase in tree-canopy cover and fewer low-weight births. And economic studies show what any estate agent swears by: leafy streets sell houses. Street trees in Portland, Oregon, yielded an increase in house pricesof $1.35bn, potentially increasing annual property tax revenues by $15.3m.

Despite compelling scientific support for urban greenery, the trees on British streets are imperilled by the lack of any government department or national body to look after them (unlike government-owned woodlands, which are managed by the Forestry Commission). Urban trees stand at the mercy of cash-strapped local councils and a hotchpotch of agencies, from housing associations to highway authorities, who may overlook their true value. But as Sheffield residents mount a desperate defence of their mature street trees, some councils and planners seem to have grasped the value of their urban forest.

In Brighton, tree experts from across Europe gathered recently and called for World Heritage Status to be given to one of the city’s less feted attractions – its unique population of mature elm trees, which survived the Dutch elm disease that destroyed most of the species in the 1970s. London mayor Boris Johnson had planted 20,000 street trees in seven years, but this achievement – praised by tree experts – is dwarfed by Toronto’s mayor John Tory, who has planted 40,000 trees since his election victory and has promised 3.8m over the next decade.

More here.