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Benefits of Urban Forests

Urban forests provide a broad array of well-known environmental, economic, and social benefits to these Canadians. For example:

  • Sequestering of gaseous air pollutants and particulates.
  • Energy conservation through transpirational cooling, shade, and wind reduction
  • Storm-water attenuation.
  • Noise buffering
  • Provision of wildlife habitat
  • Increased property value
  • Improved aesthetics, and
  • Psychological well being

The economic value of these benefits is enormous. Based on a recent analysis in the City of Toronto, with a canopy cover of 21%, very close to the average for eastern North American cities residential areas have approximately one tree per person. Based on an average Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers (1992) value of $700 per tree this would make an approximate replacement value of the urban forest at over $16 billion. Similarly, the replacement value of the municipally owned street trees would be in the order of $3 billion. The reader is cautioned that this value represents the replacement cost based on species, size, location and condition and does not reflect the monetary benefit to society.

Clearly, urban forests have a substantial monetary benefit to the municipalities, provincial and federal governments (storm water attenuation, air quality mitigation, tourism, health care costs, etc.), to residents (property value, energy conservation, etc.) and business (tree care companies, nursery industry, aesthetics of retail areas). Internationally, many cities are recognizing that their urban forests will play an important role in their competitiveness to attract business and industry.

The benefits listed above accrue not only to the owners of the trees and forest but also to the entire community. While the same can be said for the wildland forests of Canada, the connection in the urban forest is much more obvious and dramatic because the beneficiaries live within it. A recent trend has been to evaluate trees, shrubs and greenspace by applying economic models to what is increasingly known as "green infrastructure".

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