I was recently made aware of signs going up on OSU's campus listing the annual Ecological Benefits of trees on campus (apparently this has been going on for a while, but I rarely venture outside my building, unless I'm getting in my car). Here is a sign for a Northern Red Oak near my building:
Unfortunately the sign has no information on how the benefits are calculated other than a reference to the website treebenefits.com/calculator which at press-time isn't working. Nevertheless, this seems like a great project--or at least a discussion example--for a cost/benefit class. Some questions come to mind:
- What are the appropriate methods for valuing the multiple ecological benefits of campus trees?
- Are benefits additive across services?
- Are benefits additive across trees (that is, is the Northern Red Oak next to the one in this picture worth $402 also? and If so, are the two together worth $804?)
- What is the present value of the annualized stream of benefits (quick estimate--assuming an infinite life for the tree and a 5% dicount rate, the annual benefits of $402 per year in perpetuity are worth $8,040 today)?
- What is the variation in the estimate?
- Why was I not asked to help make these signs?
Feel free to add your questions in the comment section.