Texas 2011 Drought, $93 Billion in Tree Losses?

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“Nobody knows the economic value of trees.” That's the first thing that popped into my head last week when I read the Texas Forest Service had just estimated up to a half billion Texas trees, measuring five inches or more in diameter, were lost due to the unrelenting drought of 2011.

I knew the state had lost close to four million acres of open lands to record wildfires, suffered over five billion dollars in agricultural and livestock damages, considered shutting down parts of its electric grid to prevent rolling blackouts due to water shortages, and that the list of economic injury goes on and on. I knew the long-term effects of Texas's drought looked equally dismal, if not worse, and that all this damage didn't just hurt Texans… but seriously? Hundreds of million of trees “killed?” That sounds expensive.

–For reference links explaining all the above, see my full blog: http://chrissearles.blogspot.c…

The economic value of trees. So I did a little digging. It doesn't take much time on the internets to figure out the average value of an urban tree is around $1,000.00 per tree. The range of valuations, however, is huge. I have a friend who recently paid $7,500 to have three trees “installed” in his yard here in Austin. The Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers of Alabama says, “A mature tree can have an appraised value of between $1,000 and $10,000.” A US Tax Court recently valued a single, mature tree at over $160,000.00 in a settlement. So I decided to round down to the lowest urban tree value I could find and go with the City of Arlington's 2009 study, which appraises their urban trees at about $932.50 per tree. Since the Arlington, TX study omits many of the intrinsic services associated with both wild and urban trees in their valuation let's assume their's is a conservative and therefore fair tree value, and use it.  

Multiply the number of trees lost times the Arlington valuation, and you get:

-$93,250,320,404.72. $93.2 Billion lost (in 2009 dollars). That's Arlington's $932.50 per tree x 100 Million tree losses. But wait, in this scenario that's our lowest number. Texas Forest Service estimates “between 100 million and 500 million” trees died unexpectedly due to exceptional drought in 2011. Their high end count of a half billion trees, when multiplied by the Arlington number, nets out a total loss of over $466 Billion ($466,251,602,023.61 to be exact). Impressive, right?

–Read the rest of this blog, see visuals, and check my references, via my blog: http://chrissearles.blogspot.c…

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