I have an Autumn Flame red maple that I planted in my backyard probably about 15 years ago. I forget how much I paid for it, but according to calculations, this tree alone has saved about $46.08 in total benefits just this year. Specifically, over the course of a year my tree: sequesters about 36.39 lbs of CO2; intercepts 1,501.7 gallons of rainfall to avoid 229.3 gallons of runoff; removes 82.63 ounces of ozone; saves 46.05 kWh in electricity; and avoids 149.34 lbs of carbon dioxide emissions. Since its planting, my maple has stored about $849.61 worth of CO2, and over its lifetime will save 80,537.23 lbs of CO2.
Clearly, my tree is much busier than I imagined. I planted it for shade and beauty, but it’s nice to know of all the other important work it is doing in combatting climate change—especially in honor of Arbor Day today.
How did I get the numbers on my tree? I ran across a site, linked from the NY state Department of Environmental Conservation page on Arbor Day, called mytree.itreetools.org, a simple web application that will calculate the benefits of trees in your neighborhood. You only have to know a few key facts about your tree: the species, condition, diameter, and sun exposure.
Developed in 2006, i-Tree is actually a free software suite from the USDA Forest Service that can be used to strengthen advocacy efforts by quantifying the environmental benefits of trees. According to the i-Tree site, “…thousands of communities, non-profits, consultants, volunteers and students around the world have used i-Tree to report on individual trees, parcels, neighborhoods, cities, and even entire states. By understanding the local ecosystem services that trees provide, i-Tree users can link forest management activities with environmental quality and community livability. Whether your interest is a single tree or an entire forest, i-Tree provides data that you can use to demonstrate value and set priorities for more effective decision-making.”
i-Tree is a cooperative effort between the U.S. Forest Service, Davey Tree Expert Company, The Arbor Day Foundation, Society of Municipal Arborists, International Society of Arboriculture, and Casey Trees. New versions of the online tools are expected on May 3, incorporating the latest science from the U.S. Forest Service.
While I found i-Tree to be a fun Arbor Day activity (you can involve kids in measuring the tree’s circumference), find more ideas at the Arbor Day Foundation event page. In fact, the Arbor Day Foundation will plant one tree (up to 50,000 trees) for each Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook user who post a picture of a tree by midnight using the hashtag #ArborDay. And Peanuts is matching the trees planted, for a potential of 100,000 trees.
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