How much is a tree worth?

Trees in urban and suburban areas provide a number of important benefits, according to i-Tree, a cooperative initiative by the Arbor Day Foundation, Davey Tree Expert, the U.S. Forestry Service, the Society of Municipal Arborists, the International Society of Arboriculture and Casey Trees.

Trees raise property values. They also help to clean the air, curb stormwater runoff, reduce energy costs and sequester carbon.

Under the i-Tree initiative, Davey Tree Expert and Casey Trees jointly developed a national Tree Benefit Calculator ( that can be fun to use to evaluate the trees on your property. It allows anyone to make a simple estimation of the benefits individual street-side trees provide. By inputting a particular tree's location, species and tree diameter, you can get an estimate of the environmental and economic value that tree provides on an annual basis.

Keep in mind that those located in your backyard may not add quite as much to your property value as those in your front yard, but this tool will give you an overall idea of the benefits you are reaping annually from the trees you have on your property.

This fun-to-use tool does not give precise values, just an estimate so homeowners can have a basic understanding of the value of trees in their community.

For instance, a sugar maple in Des Plaines that measures a diameter of 45 inches at about 4½ feet from the ground will intercept 7,083 gallons of stormwater runoff this year, filtering harmful chemicals through its root system and reducing soil erosion.

If that tree is located in front of a single-family home, it will raise the property value by $147 this year. Real estate agents admit trees can increase the "curb appeal" of properties, increasing sale prices because homebuyers are willing to pay more for properties with a plethora of trees versus few or no trees.

The sugar maple will also help its owner conserve 456 kilowatt-hours of electricity for cooling and reduce consumption of natural gas by 58 therms. According to the i-Tree website, in summer, trees shading east and west walls keep buildings cooler. In winter, allowing the sun to strike the southern side of a building can warm interior spaces. But, they caution, if southern walls are shaded by dense evergreen trees there may be an increase in winter heating costs.

In addition, this tree will absorb pollutants like ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide through its leaves, will release oxygen through photosynthesis and will intercept dust, ash, smoke and other particulates.

Finally, according to the Tree Benefit Calculator, the large Des Plaines sugar maple will reduce atmospheric carbon by 2,328 pounds by locking up carbon dioxide in its roots, trunks, stems and leaves.

Not a bad investment!

- Jean Murphy

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