Have you ever wondered the precise economic and ecological benefits of that stubby, resilient little street tree parked in the sidewalk outside your home? If you live in the United Kingdom and happily identify as a bark-sniffing, leaf-crunching, tree-hugger, Treezilla might be for you.
Launched by the Open University, Treezilla aims to map and quantify the collective value of every single tree in Britain, especially in urban areas. It’s also relying on an army of
hippie-slaves “citizen foresters” to get out there and start measuring.
Some of the project’s preliminary results are already up on the site. With some 29,751 trees documented at the time of publication, Treezilla has counted a total of 1,867,681 pounds (nearly $3 million) in ecological benefits, translated into cost savings. Some more large numbers: These include 5,626,054 kilograms of greenhouse gases offset by the plants, 30,740,642 kilowatt hours conserved, and nearly 29,000 kilograms of pollutants reduced.
Treezilla explains how they come to these numbers in a handy FAQ:
The ecosystem services provided by urban trees can have a large monetary value, for example a tiny part of central London, Victoria, has just 1200 trees. A detailed analysis of the area showed they remove 1.2 tonnes of pollution with a value £85,000 (on UK social damage cost basis) per year, they also attenuate 112,000 cubic metres of storm water with value of £50,000 per year. When these analyses have been carried out citywide in a few parts of North America and Europe and included all the different ecosystem services then urban trees often have benefit values of tens of millions of pounds per year. The benefit numbers take into account the costs associated with planting and maintaining the trees.
If their explanation doesn’t satisfy, you can also head over to i-Tree, a “peer-reviewed software suite” hosted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that can explain more precisely where those cost-benefit translations come from.
Outside of the United Kingdom, we’re not aware of a “monster” tree map that exists for the entire United States or any other country, but treemapping has been done on the local scale in cities like Philadelphia and San Francisco. Opentreemap.org, however, is offering a treemapping app that supposedly anyone anywhere can use, and it’s set to arrive this October.