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Economic Benefits

Our project, if successful, will provide long term economic, ecological and health benefits to the city of Austin and to the general public. If we don't control oak wilt, the result will be a devastation of our urban forest and loss of canopy cover that could lead to considerable long-term economic costs. As documented by numerous studies, some of which are summarized below, mature trees provide significant economic benefit by reducing stormwater flow, reducing erosion, improving air quality and conserving energy. (See an Urban Ecosystem Analysis of Austin.) We believe, therefore, that the wisest course for creating a sustainable urban forest is to conserve our mature trees and canopy cover through oak wilt suppression efforts, while simultaneously diversifying our urban forest and giving newly planted trees time to mature.

  • Mature trees have a much greater capacity than immature trees for mitigating stormwater runoff, removing pollutants from the air, and providing shade.
  • An economic study by American Forests in 2002 found that the existing tree canopy in the Greater San Antonio area reduces the need for stormwater control facility capacity by 678 million cubic feet, resulting in a saving of $1.35 billion in one-time construction costs. (www.americanforests.org/resources/rea/)
  • The same study states that trees improve air quality by removing nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, ozone and particulate matter from the air (17.6 million pounds of pollutants annually in the Greater San Antonio Area, resulting in an annual benefit of $42 million).
  • According to Austin Energy, a single mature shade tree provides the cooling equivalent of a 4-ton air conditioner and tree-shaded neighborhoods are 4-6 degrees cooler than neighborhoods without trees. Other studies have found that neighborhoods with plenty of mature trees can be up to 7 degrees cooler than treeless areas nearby. (Simpson, 1998; Nowak, 2000) (www.iclei.org). Cooler neighborhoods significantly reduce smog formation and demand for energy.
  • Simulations of energy saving benefits for Sacramento and Phoenix found that 3 mature trees around homes cut annual air conditioning demand by 25 to 40%. (McPherson et al, 1999) (www.iclei.org)
  • Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories' studies show that for each 1-degree rise in summer temperatures, the risk of smog formation increases by 3% or more. (www.coolcommunities.org/urban_shade_trees.htm) Another study concluded that cooling Los Angeles by 5-7 F [which shade trees can do] can reduce smog formation by 20% -- the equivalent of taking all cars out of LA's airshed for one day. (Rosenfeld et al, 1997) (www.iclei.org)
  • According to Texas A&M scientists, about one-half of a tree's dry weight is carbon, and our urban forest plays a significant role in removing and storing carbon, a major air pollutant and cause of ground-level smog. Mature trees weigh hundreds or thousands of times what new trees weigh, and therefore have a vastly greater capacity for carbon sequestration and storage than do immature trees.
  • The U.S. Department of Energy states that enhancing the natural processes for removing the pollutant carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is one of the most cost-effective means of reducing atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide. DOE recommends protection of ecosystems and deforestation abatement as primary means of enhancing such processes. (www.fe.doe.gov/programs/sequestration/terrestrial)

For links to additional studies, see rcf.usc.edu/~vasishth/Heat_Island-biblio.html.