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The economic benefits and costs of trees in urban forest stewardship: A systematic review

Reference Type
Journal, Research (Article)

This systematic review examines the methods used to jointly analyse the costs and benefits of trees in the urban landscape, assesses the relative balance of benefits and costs, and attempts to understand the wide variation in economic values assigned in different studies.

Highlights

• Most studies were a “snapshot” of values for inventoried trees at a city-scale.

• Costs were relatively understudied, and benefits were mostly limited to five types.

• Benefits that drew most research interest did not necessarily provide greatest value.

• A limited biogeographical scope reveals the need for more research in the tropics.

• Comprehensive accounting and integration with decision-making frameworks are needed.

Abstract

Understanding the benefits provided by urban trees is important to justify investment and improve stewardship. Many studies have attempted to quantify the benefits of trees in monetary terms, though fewer have quantified the associated costs of planting and maintaining them. This systematic review examines the methods used to jointly analyse the costs and benefits of trees in the urban landscape, assesses the relative balance of benefits and costs, and attempts to understand the wide variation in economic values assigned in different studies. The benefits most frequently studied are those related to environmental regulation and property values, and the available data show that these usually outweigh the costs. Aesthetic, amenity, and shading benefits have also been shown to provide significant economic benefits, while benefits in terms of water regulation, carbon reduction and air quality are usually more modest. Variation in benefits and costs among studies is attributed largely to differences in the species composition and age structure of urban tree populations, though methodological differences also play a role. Comparison between studies is made difficult owing to differences in spatiotemporal scope, and in the way urban forest composition and demographic structure were reported. The overwhelming majority of studies concern deciduous trees in Northern America, and much less is known about urban forests in other regions, especially in the tropics. Future work should thus seek to fill these knowledge gaps, and standardise research protocols across cities. In light of ambitious goals in many cities to increase tree cover, ongoing advances in valuation methods need to provide a more comprehensive accounting of benefits and costs, and to better integrate economic assessment into the decision-making process.

Authors
X.P. Song, P.Y. Tan, P. Edwards, D. Richards
Date Published
November 2017
Journal/Conference
Urban Forestry & Urban Greening
Publisher
Elsevier
Volume/Issue/Number
29
Start Page
162
End Page
170
Pages
9
Sub-Topics
Economics/Cost-Benefit Analysis
State(s)/Region(s)
International
Indexed By
UFSe
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