GeoWorld July 2012

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n the United Kingdom (UK), trees and hedges are fundamental elements of the countryside; they've provided inspiration for generations of painters and writers, shaped the agricultural and commercial devel- opment of rural England, and continue to provide an essential social and economic resource. However, they also have a major part to play in urban areas, whether in private gardens; parks and other open spaces; or lining the sides of streets, railways, rivers and canals. In residential areas, town centers and commercial districts, urban vegetation provides valuable habitat for wildlife, improves the air and helps conserve energy in nearby buildings. Studies in the United States established several economic and social benefits attributed to urban veg- etation, including a willingness to pay more for parking and goods in landscaped business districts, a positive impact on house prices, and reduced crime levels. In the UK, a recently published government white paper on the natural environment, "The Natural Choice," highlighted some surprising measurements of the economic benefits of urban green spaces. These include an estimated benefit of £300 per person, per year, attributed to living within a view of green space. Nationally, green spaces are estimated to be worth £2.3 billion to the economy, per year. In addition, maintaining the UK's green spaces is predicted to deliver £30 billion in health and welfare benefits alone, but failing to maintain such a valuable resource would cost an estimated £20 billion each year. The white paper categorizes services that are the product of natural systems into four classes: 1. Provisioning Services—Products obtained directly from the system (e.g., food, water, fiber and fuel). 2. Regulating Services—Processes that provide benefit such as pollination, water purification, climate regulation, noise and air pollution, and flood-hazard reduction. 3. Cultural Services—Non-material benefits from ecosystems such as spiritual or religious enrich- ment, cultural heritage, recreation or aesthetic experience. 4. Supporting Services—Where ecosystem functions are necessary for producing all other services, such as soil formation and nutrient cycling. In addition, the paper promises that England's natural environment will be protected, restored and improved. These ambitious plans include better urban green spaces for benefit of cities and towns as well as support for parks, gardens and tree planting. The Urban trees contribute a variety of direct and indirect benefits to the Business District of Hammersmith in West London. J U LY 2O12 / WWW . GEOPLA CE . COM 19 A Bluesky survey plane captured the raw imagery and height information used to create ProximiTREE data. paper also promises an "annual statement of green accounts for UK Plc," showing where the economy has withdrawn from the value of nature's bank balance and where investment has been made. Despite these positive and promising developments, there can be a downside to urban trees. House subsid- ence is estimated to cost the UK insurance industry in excess of £500 million after each dry year—with

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