This fall, Vancouver city workers will start planting some 3,000 trees, the first of the planned 150,000 called for in the city’s 2011 Greenest City Action Plan.
The cost for the first batch of trees – to be planted on both private and city-owned land – is $650,000 of the city’s budget of about $1-billion. The investment is geared to more than shade and eye appeal. Vancouver, like other cities around the world, is looking to its urban forest for benefits ranging from energy savings to pollution control.
While such benefits have long been acknowledged, technology is making it easier to measure them – in the process, helping to build a business case for greenery.
“It’s getting easier to quantify the environmental services provided by trees, because there are programs that we have been able to plug into that give us that information,” said Beth McEwen, manager of urban forest renewal with the City of Toronto, which in 2005 announced plans to boost its tree canopy from about 20 per cent to 40 per cent over the next 50 years.
Toronto used i-Tree – software developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service – for a 2010 report, Every Tree Counts, which mapped the city’s tree cover and calculated what role trees played in, for example, reducing air pollution. Vancouver will be testing the software this fall, but has not done a cost-benefit analysis of its tree-planting target. Still, the city considers it a solid investment.
“There are social and economic benefits – including cleaner air, habitat for wildlife, increased property values and neighbourhood pride, to name a few,” Ms. Blyth said.