Trees are rarely valued properly, there are numerous factors to take

into consideration and as such the real or financial value of a particular tree is hard if not simply impossible to ascertain. Following on from work carried out by D R Helliwell and latterly the CAVAT system and in light of growing academic research, (particularly into the sustainable attributes of tree planting, which has yet to have penetrated the psyche of the average layman and thus rarely gets any serious consideration from government), this list illustrates just how much value can actually be placed on any particular tree.

The Environmental Value: It is well documented that trees have the ability to lessen pollution, create shade and a more ambient atmosphere in urban settings. They can reduce wind hazard, stabilise soils and create O2 from CO2. There are numerous scientific methods to calculate each relevant environmental benefit a tree can have but essentially, and this goes for all the subsequent values listed below, it is essential to determine such factors on each individual specimen.

The Ecological Value: A single tree is a habitat in itself, the huge range of both flora and fauna which can benefit from the trees presence can often play a huge role in the surrounding habitat. Beneficial animals will help to control pests in productive gardens, the mychorrizal fungi's help in the remediation of the soils.

The Landscape Value: (see D R Helliwells valuation method). Obviously there are many trees in the landscape that will actually increase the land and property value of any given area. The thought process by Landscape Architects and Garden Designers, (as well as amateur gardener), in determining the placement of a tree has a financial worth. This value is increased year on year as the tree matures and gives benefit to more and more people. Peter Blake, former Chairman of the International Tree Foundation, Cornwall Branch and retired County Horticulturalist, gave many hours to campaign in convincing developers and councils that new developments had to planted with trees, using the facts that those sites which were, were simply stronger community areas as a result, the take up was poor and remains so as the maintenance costs are too high - yet the benefits socially and financially of trees in the community clearly mark this to be a massive false economy.

The Nursery Value: A simple value and often used as a tool for insurance purposes. If the tree was removed how much would it cost to replace the tree as it was. Imagine such costs if the tree was a 150 year old Oak, (hiring in the kind of machinery required alone would amount to 5 figures).

The Holistic value: Trees are more and more being seen as a method of determining an event, and unfortunately often a bereavement. Sometimes the tree is the event itself - the site of a proposal, death or other life changing moment. As these trees mature how can you place a value on this and if you were to do so, imagine just how much this is could amount to. Celebrity trees can often hold a huge value - the tree Mark Bolan crashed into or the famously photographed drooping palm on a beach, (how much in financial royalties is this tree owed?). We all have our favourite places - the trees in those places hold tremendous value to us and as such each of us can place a huge value to a particular tree, which cannot be quantified by anyone else - but must be taken into account. Evidence from psychology scientists is that a tree is remembered within a memory easily, if someone is searching out the backdrop to a distant memory and the trees contained within that memory have disappeared the memory disappears also.

the Acer pseudoplatanus Mark Bolan of T Rex crashed into.

The Timber Value: As a growing specimen, year on year, many trees accrue a small but significant value in terms of their timber. Cherry wood, walnut wood etc., all have huge value to particular markets well beyond those valuations given by way of Forest Mensuration practice.

The Production value: A garden with a large, productive orchard or even single fruit tree, which can produce year on year will have a quantifiable financial value based on the supply of fruit. Apples are one of the fastest growing sectors of land industry and as such years ago when they fell in popularity and hectares upon hectares of trees were removed, little thought was given to how much 'food' was removed from the system. I know of a few successful enterprises for the 'foliage' market, again it is easy to quantify how much each tree earns and as such place a financial value on it.

The Sustainable Value Historically in Europe and still across the vast majority of the world; trees are the primary energy source. With depleting stocks of carbon based fuel sources, it is still a viable option for the future. Intensive coppice crops can provide significant resources and are completely renewable. Coppice has fallen out of favour for the last sixty years but it is making a comeback. Together with modern wood burning technology it is an option that can be ignored. Thus a tree which is able to provide a cycle of wood for coppice crops has an increasing financial value.

Add up all the above, if you can, you are looking at a hefty price tag. As such when a tree is felled simply because it blocks the light to the bathroom window, how much money is lost. If property values started to reflect these values, (indeed many do, but via property valuation which is usually always a 'comparable' value and as such should hold little credence), we would see some real and long overdue financial injections into the landscaping and arboricultural industries. In particular the short sighted local governmental decisions to simply cut down trees or not to plant in the first place to save costs, actually miss out on huge real financial added value to the community they are meant to serve.

As part of the Tree Year project 2011 a valuation of some trees in real terms, with the methodology described where possible on the European Trees website is being published online during 2011.


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Comment by John Honeyman on May 5, 2009 at 21:56
Just briefly would like to expand this topic, as I can remember many heated discussions as to how to value our environment, whether on an individual species level or more holistically in terms of landscapes. There have been many scientific exercises, but no conclusive assessment system, and this applies to trees as well, CAVAT is one of many I have seen, I am sure others will surface as time goes by.
The fact is economic process is mathematical and needs this to function, whereas the mathematical basis of the natural world are either still hidden or indecipherable as yet (just like this comment, my grammar is terrible).
The upshot is the global economy is a system based on growth (no growth or negative growth is a recession) which equates to resource use, ultimately unsustainable. Environmental cost needs to be factored in, trees could be the start. A radical mind-shift is needed in the powers that be to offset the lack of mathematically viable environmental cost data. However this could threaten company profits a minefield.
I have e-mailed Gordon Brown along these lines, I will let you know his reply, and if he steals my ideas you heard it first on LJN
Comment by Cornish Apple Trees on April 23, 2009 at 8:43
With regards to the productivity value: A single apple tree, when sold as a one year, grafted tree would amount to £9.00. (Many National Varieties are sold as 2 - 3 year olds with on average a 100% mark up each year). However the real value assuming productivity starts when the tree is 4 - 5, would amount to an increase of 45% per annum per tree, once fruiting commences. At the 12 year old stage this would level out to 20%. The 12 year mark is a great 'rule of thumb' for most ornamental and fruit trees as it usually marks the point of the tree reaching a mature stage.
Comment by Hamish on April 22, 2009 at 10:47
The CAVAT system is good and has costings which make it easier to allow for councils to determine the management on older trees, but does not take into account much for younger trees and therefore the potential to start planting for financial incentives into particular communities. The education system really needs addressing and probably the best way forward on this level is the productivity of particular trees. For me it is frustrating to see trees being ignored almost as the most sustainable approach for 'personal' energy resources. If you have the land it is well worth starting a coppice crop with the intention of using the fuel for heating instead most have the image of an aga stuck in their heads and tend to ignore this vast potential.

PRO Member
Comment by Pip Howard on April 20, 2009 at 22:59
Here is the CAVAT document - CAVAT-rev-May2008.pdfCAVAT this one has the percentages for almost every council in the UK
Comment by Sustainable Land Management on April 19, 2009 at 21:36
Thanks for the bumf.

The whole sustainable approach to not just tree management - but the landscaping industry also has become so frustrating. There is so much money that has been made available to bridge the gap between the populace and the academic research and yet little is ever filtered down to the industry.
A conference in Florence in 2006, looked at the whole forestry industry with academics from around the globe, the motto used was 'traditional knowledge' and went on to describe people like us in the industry as people worth preserving in order to maintain links to justifying public spending in this field. Where does this money go - into quangos who need to retain as much money as possible to justify their income. There is always the obligatory website, which costs a fortune, sits low in the ratings and from which hardly ever a job is found, but a great deal of academic twaddle usually stolen from someone actually working in the industry. Philip Voice then comes along, off his own back develops a site like this where amateurs, potential clients and professionals can all bounce ideas off one another and I bet without a sniff of a substantial grant.

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