Urban Forests for Human Health: A Focused Economic Valuation

2017 | Kathleen Wolf, PhD, University of Washington 

What is the economic value of having trees in cities and towns? There are widely used models for economic values concerning the environmental services of trees, such as air and water quality. Human health outcomes – including disease prevention, improved mental health, and better community cohesion – suggest additional economic returns, yet little is currently known about this potential. This project will extract research about the human health benefits specific to city trees and forests, synthesize the findings into a review publication, and conduct economic valuation using a benefits transfer approach. Nearly 40 years of research indicates the human health benefits gained from experiences of nearby nature in cities, and is summarized at the Green Cities: Good Health (GCGH) web site, hosted at the University of Washington. The article database that informs GCGH includes a subset of articles that focus on human health responses associated with city trees and urban forestry, and this peer-reviewed literature will become the basis for valuation strategies. This work is important as professionals who work in arboriculture, urban forestry, green infrastructure, landscape design and related fields are often challenged to justify the costs of tree planning, planting and management. The results of the focused economic analysis will be submitted for peer-reviewed publication, and translated to science delivery products, to include a results briefing, PowerPoint presentation, and urban forestry policy guidelines.