Trees are saving London billions each year
A new report from the UK’s Office of National Statistics (ONS) estimates that tree cover saved London more than £5bn from 2014 to 2018 through air cooling alone.
According to the report, the removal of air pollution by the UK’s woodland also equated to a saving of £938m in healthcare costs in 2017, while urban woodlands cooled 11 city regions sufficiently on hot days to save £229m in labour productivity during 2018.
The findings from the ONS echo a 2015 report funded by the London Mayor’s office, which found that the city’s 8.4m trees remove around 2,240 tonnes of pollutants from the atmosphere annually – a process that would otherwise cost £126m.
This latest report once again underlines the crucial role that trees play in making modern cities liveable. This includes providing cooling shade, flood mitigation, filtering air pollution and providing habitat for birds, mammals and flora, as well as aesthetic benefits.
The carbon storage capacity of urban trees alone is said to be worth £4.8m per annum in Greater London, or £17.80 per tree, according to social enterprise Treeconomics.
And new research led by University College London (UCL) has also shown that some pockets of urban forest can contain as much carbon as tropical rainforests. However, when it comes to cooling and carbon capture, it’s important to consider that newly-planted trees have less impact than mature and established ones, said Phil Wilkes, UCL academic and author of a study mapping the carbon absorption of London’s trees.
In the wake of the latest report, Hazel Trenbirth from the ONS Natural Capital team, which looks at cost savings generated by greenery across the UK, said: “Britain’s trees have a value that goes far beyond what you can get from chopping them down.”
Dr Mat Disney, the report’s co-author and leader of the UCL Geography LiDAR research group, agreed, adding: “An important outcome of our work was to highlight the value of urban trees, in their various and very different settings. The approach has been really successful so far, so we’re extending it across London, to other cities in the UK and internationally.”