How much is a tree worth? How do you calculate its value? Board feet? Ecoservices?
For many people advocating for the implementation of REDD+, the value of a forest is great. Forests in developing countries like Myanmar, Papua New Guinea and Mongolia are recognized for their vital role in protecting water sources, sequestering carbon, and controlling erosion. The forests are also valued because they provide ecosystem services and protect biodiversity. These benefits individually and collectively act as a buffer to the effects of climate change – creating a resilient ecosystem.
But what about the value of a tree? More importantly, how should developed states value their trees and forests? The Temperate forests of Oregon and Washington and the Boreal forests of Alaska are considered global champions for climate change mitigation. Yet the timber industry as well as the state and federal agencies that manage forests on public lands value a tree and even entire forest by extractable board footage. Simply put, the value of a tree is determined by the immediate profit that can be realized by its removal as well as the jobs created in the process. Little to no account is given to intangible worth like ecosystem services and the forests’ rich biodiversity. Given less consideration are unforeseeable future benefits like a stable climate.
But if we are to adequately determine whether to remove a tree or a forest, perhaps we should take a page from the book of developing nations. In doing so, it behooves us to place a proper value on the resource- considering its worth entirely. We may find that the forest, yes even the tree, is worth more standing.