Trees are big news. The entire climate change topic has moved up the priority ladder by several notches since the UK has become more aware of the impact that people, the things they produce, and the way that they live, have on the world. Governments are talking about trees and are now driving initiatives for tree planting schemes in an effort to right the environmental wrongs that have happened gradually over the decades.
It seems that one of the keys to recognising the value of trees is to place a monetary figure on these big beasts of the plant kingdom.
So how do you go about doing this?
This tree (above) certainly has a visual value, but how do you convert this into a monetary figure?
There are tools to help
There are now on-line tools that can help to place an actual value on a single tree, or a group of trees. i-Tree is a software application with many different tools available to help quantify the environmental effects of urban trees and to calculate their value to society. The acquired information from an i-Tree survey can then be used for a multitude of beneficial purposes including policy development, decisions regarding resource management and to highlight priorities for a town or village's trees and green spaces.
For example, the 'i-Tree My Tree' tool is highly suited to individuals who want to assess the value of one to several trees, and 'i-Tree Canopy' allows people to estimate the tree canopy of an area and uses aerial photographs. Treeconomics is a highly useful project that aims to facilitate the use of i-Tree Eco in the UK. This tool focuses on quantifying the environmental effects of urban trees and thereby calculating their value to society. Treeconomics works internationally with various comunity groups, research organisations, public bodies, municipalities and private business in order to add expertise for projects highlighting the value of trees.
The Capital Asset Valuation of Amenity Trees (CAVAT) is a method by which a monetary value of the amenity benefits of a tree can be calculated. Indeed, good tree specimens are regularly valued at well over £1m each, particularly within urban situations.That's not to be sniffed at! At last, local, regional and national authorities are taking notice.
People who trim or remove trees that are the subject of a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) need to seek permission before doing so. Recently, a businessman who had branches taken off an oak tree because it was shading his new Juliet balcony adjacent to his bedroom, was ordered to pay almost £40,000 which covered legal costs, fees and the perceived added value to his home.
The rise in importance of trees has commenced!
What can you do?
All of us can help protect local trees, just by keeping an eye on them. Some people might be able to add more trees to the environment by planting a tree in their own gardens or by seeking permission to plant on suitable land. Some people might like to consider the idea of becoming a Tree Warden. These are normally appointed by Parish or Town Councils and the role can become whatever the Tree Warden wants it to be. Some Tree Wardens are highly active, running planting projects with schools and members of the community. Others simply keep an eye on planning applications and stand up for trees when appropriate. Some tree-lovers create a 'tree trail' around the town or village, creating a printed publication that highlights local trees so that people can fully appreciate them.
Simply plotting the positions, sizes, health and species of trees within a community can help to safeguard them. It only takes a few motivated people to be able to push the trees in their locality into the limelight and this, in turn, helps to protect them.
See the visual value of urban trees in this city landscape? These trees are highly valuable assets and should be protected.
Food for thought
Did you know that by the time a 2020-born baby reaches the age of 30, it is predicted that one third of the entire world’s population will live in cities rather than in the countryside? Therefore, each and every person needs to contribute something positive to the environment. The importance of the urban mindset is paramount for a more positive future. Every person’s actions count!
It might be as simple as using sustainable products such as wood in preference to single-use artificial alternatives. Why is wood good? Trees have carbon-locking credentials and while they are growing, they produce oxygen, absorb pollution, clean the air, stabilise the soil, filter the wind, create shelter and, of course, provide habitats for plant, bird and insect life. If they are grown as a crop in a sustainable manner they offer huge benefits when alive, then perform highly valued and useful purposes when felled. They’re a renewable resource that is organic and there’s no issue over biodegrading once their useful life is over. What’s not to love about wood?
It would be a great idea for everyone with a garden to move towards planting schemes that are ‘wildlife-friendly’. Biodiversity is as relevant in a domestic garden as in a public park or farmland. Mixed planting with lots of cover, seeds, flowers and different habitats are the best, and lawns with weeds are far preferable to a green monoculture! Permeable surfaces, through which water can drain is far better than solid surfaces which feed water into an already over-stretched drainage system. Swales, ditches and ponds are a great way to direct water and catch it. And great for wildlife too.
Nature is good for everyone. Incorporate it in as many places as possible and the world eco system will have a chance to recover.