The trees in and around our urban areas (together with woodlands, shrubs, hedges, open grass, green space and wetland) are collectively known as the ‘urban forest’.
Our urban forests provide many benefits to the people who live and work in our towns and cities. They are great at improving air quality, absorbing carbon, protecting our watercourses, saving energy, and for adding aesthetic value. They help improve our mental health, provide pleasant areas for us to walk and sit, and for our children to play, and can even enhance property prices. When planted strategically in the right places, and when given the right care, trees really can transform our urban environments and make them more sustainable. This is not to mention the huge environmental benefits that trees deliver (known as ‘ecosystem services’), which contribute daily to the health and wellbeing of our planet.
Despite this, trees are an undervalued resource. In the minds of many, they are seen as a risk rather than an asset. Trees require maintenance and they require care, and there is a cost attached to this. However, the benefits they provide far outweigh this cost. There is a lot of work to be done to convey the true value of trees, to those whose job it is to furnish our towns and cities with this wonderful natural resource. And this is what Treeconomics strives to do; to promote the benefits and value of trees in our towns and cities.
We have worked with many local authorities up and down the country, helping them to realise the value of their urban forests. But we wanted to make an impact in the place we ourselves live and work: Exeter – Treeconomics’ home town! And we wanted to do this at no cost to Exeter City Council. We have called this the Exeter i-Tree Project.
i-Tree is an open-source software suite which calculates the ecosystem services that trees provide. Once we have surveyed Exeter’s urban forest, i-Tree will be able to provide key information about its structure, composition, and the benefits it is providing. The Exeter i-Tree Eco report will show clearly, in monetary terms, the trees’ replacement value, which species the city is hosting, and the ecosystem services these trees are providing.
With this information, Exeter City Council will be able to place a concrete value on its tree stock, and the benefits these trees are delivering, year on year. Exeter will be able to more easily mitigate for development impacts, inform land use changes, and the data could even help avoid a loss of natural capital through planned intervention. In short, the information resulting from the Exeter i-Tree Project could help Exeter make more informed management decisions about its green infrastructure.
We are very excited to be running this project in our home town and this could not have been done without the help of our volunteers who live and work here – so a big thank you to them!
- Quantification and valuation of the ecosystem services provided by Exeter’s Urban Forest