Urban Trees Save Megacities $500 Million a Year

Street-side trees in Paris, France.

Street-side trees in Paris, France.

Trees in urban areas save megacities more than $500 million a year in public health costs, energy expenses, and environmental protection, according to a recent study in the journal Ecological Modeling.

The study, led by scientists at the State University of New York (SUNY), looked at the services trees provide in 10 megacities across the globe, including Beijing, Los Angeles, Mexico City, and Mumbai. It found that trees cover about 21 percent of the cityscapes, and that they save these communities an estimated $482 million a year in reducing air pollutants like fine particulate matter and sulfur dioxide; $11 million in handling stormwater runoff; $8 million in CO2 sequestration; and $500,000 in building heating and cooling costs.

That ends up equaling roughly $1.2 million per square mile, or $35 per resident, per year.

The study also found that cities had on average 19 percent more land available to plant more trees. If done, these economic benefits could be nearly doubled, the study found.

“Placing these results on the larger scale of socio-economic systems makes evident to what extent nature supports our individual and community well-being by providing ecosystem services for free,” said co-author Sergio Ulgiati of University Parthenope in Naples, Italy. “A deeper awareness of the economic value of free services provided by nature may increase our willingness to invest efforts and resources into natural capital conservation.”