October 8, 2013 — COLLEGE STATION, Texas — It’s easy to figure out how much
a tree is worth when it is harvested for lumber, paper or firewood. But what
about when it’s still standing tall in the forest, providing shade on sunny
days, giving homes to woodland animals and helping clean the air you breathe
and the water you drink?
Just how much is that worth?
Almost $93 billion each year, according to a
first-of-its-kind study for Texas conducted by Texas A&M Forest Service.
The figure was derived through the Texas Statewide Assessment of Forest Ecosystem Services, a
compilation of the environmental benefits and their monetary value provided by Texas’
more than 60 million acres of forestland.
“Through this assessment, we hope to foster a greater awareness of the overall
importance of forestlands,” said Forester Hughes Simpson, who coordinates the
Texas A&M Forest Service’s Water Resources program. “Forests provide
services that humans can’t live without.”
As part of the study, researchers looked at how Texas forests
help regulate local climate, protect water resources, purify the air and improve
wildlife habitats and species diversity. They also surveyed residents from
across the state to better understand their thoughts, views, and values of Texas
“Cultural values are more esoteric. It’s the value people
place on a forest for just being there and knowing it’s going to be there for
their kids and grandkids,” Simpson said, noting that it carried the highest
monetary value. “They felt better just knowing that the forests were there,
even if they never intended to visit a forest.”
The five core ecosystem services and their annual,
statewide values are listed below.
Regulation, $4.2 billion/year
Affect forests have on regional
and local climates by absorbing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide - a greenhouse
Regulation, $13.2 billion/year
Ability of the forests to
provide a continuous, stable supply of clean drinking water through various
hydrological processes (aquifer recharge, purification, flood and storm
Services, $14.8 billion/year
Capacity forests have to promote
essential biological diversity and provide sustainable habitats for plants and
Services, $60.4 billion/year
Non-material benefits (spiritual
enrichment, cognitive development, reflection and aesthetic experience)
obtained from forest ecosystems.
Quality Services, $190.3 million/year
Ability of forests to remove particulates
and other pollutants from the air.
The online version of the study — found at TexasForestInfo.com — allows residents
to see the ecosystem values for their specific location.
Though this assessment looked only at forested,
mostly-rural lands, Simpson said the agency soon will study the benefits
provided by trees in urban areas, such as those that line parks and streets. He
said the ultimate goal is to compile both surveys, giving the agency a better
picture of the value of the benefits that trees and forests provide to Texas.
Forest Service Contacts
Hughes Simpson, Program Coordinator
Eric Taylor, Silviculturist
TFS Communications Team