New article in Nature Energy: Adding power to the value of trees

The thick, mature trees that line the neighbourhoods of Gainesville, valueoftreesFlorida, cast cool shade onto the residences below. Like many cities, Gainesville has policies that restrict the cutting down of trees, on the basis that the 50-to 100-year-old large, healthy trees with unique value (sometimes called ‘heritage trees’) make the city prettier and clean the air and water. Studies also show that leafy streets help sell houses1, benefit mental health2, and reduce asthma3 and crime4.

While municipalities in the southern and western United States are creating ordinances and programmes that restrict clear cutting for development projects and encourage tree planting for aesthetic reasons, they may now have further reason to discourage residential tree removals and encourage extending the life of mature trees: the shade they provide offers significant energy benefits, too. In warmer climates, trees keep houses cool and reduce the electricity needed for air conditioning, which accounts for a large proportion of energy consumption in sunny states like Florida. Despite compelling scientific support for the benefits of urban and suburban greenery, mature trees are at risk due to the lack of valuation for their energy services to homeowners and communities, and due to lack of public information about their energy benefits.

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