What Is A Tree Worth?

Amrita Devi and her daughters gave their lives to protect trees near their Rajasthan home
in a confrontation with tree cutters in 1730AD. The Bishnois people are consider
among the earliest conservationists in the world.

An older tree is worth at least $200,000 - alive. That is the estimate made by a scientist in India, a country known for protecting precious forest resources.

The Indian Chipko activists were the original tree-huggers, risking their own lives to save the lives of valuable trees. I am sure the scientist would agree that the trees are worth the risks brave defenders take.

According to T.M. Das, a professor at the University of Calcutta, a living tree 50 years old will generate:

  • $31,250 dollars worth of oxygen, 
  • provide $62,000 worth of air pollution control, 
  • control soil erosion and increase soil fertility to the tune of $31,250
  • recycle $37,500 dollars worth of water, and 
  • provide a home for animals worth $31,250.

This figure does not include the value of nuts, fruits, wood products like lumber, or the beauty derived from trees.

If a 50 year old tree is worth $200,000 dollars, how about a 500 year old tree? A 2,000 year old tree? A whole forest of old growth trees?

They are priceless.

The professor's work highlights more reasons to ensure the health of our forests now and for the future. Old growth trees are worth hugging, and their forests worth protecting.

"We have risen, we are awake: No longer will thieves rule our destiny. 
It is our home, our forests; No longer will the others decide for us. 
Soil ours, water ours, ours are these forests too."
- Dhan Singh Rana, Indian Chipko Movement


Dead Wood Is Good Wood

A large diameter fallen tree along Upper Goldstream Trail in Goldstream Provincial Park. Over hundreds of
years the fallen Western red cedar will provide nutrients for the large Douglas fir behind it.

In the Pacific rainforest dead standing and fallen trees may make up more biomass than the living giants towering above the soil. If it weren't for these dead trees, and the decomposers that break them down, the forest would cease to exist.

According to renowned forester Chris Maser, ‘decaying wood serves as a savings account of soil organic materials and nutrients in forest ecosystems’. This is one reason landowners should not try to "clean up" forested areas. They need to be messy in order to function properly.

Sometimes messy old growth forests are deemed "decadent" to justify cutting them down. But you can't improve on the natural cycles of life and death.

Fallen large trees enhance fish habitat by providing shade and structure.
These downed trees are over the upper Goldstream River.

Dead wood is also a boon to forest wildlife.

In the words of forest scientist Charles Elton, "dying and dead wood provides one of the two or three greatest resources for animal species in a natural forest...if fallen timber and slightly decayed trees are removed the whole system is gravely impoverished of perhaps more than one fifth of its wildlife component".

The healthiest forest is an untouched forest, in all its messy, "decadent" glory.


A Few Favourite Tree Friends

This ancient cedar is on one of my favourite bike rides along the Sooke River. These
trees are hard to age, but this one could be pushing 1000.

We initially moved to the rainforest from the city to be surrounded by wilderness, to experience a landscape and everything living in it more than we ever had before. We gave ourselves time to explore and followed every little whim.

Because of this mandate we have made friends with a lot of trees.

Here are a few of the gentle giants that we have had the privilege of visiting.

This large Douglas-fir is in Devonian Park, Metchosin. There are a few older trees here, and
access to the beach and ocean below.

This is the largest tree I have stood next to in my nine years of tramping through the forest
searching for the big ones. Western red cedar like this one could live for thousands of years.
Yes, thousands.

This old growth Sitka spruce is on a trail leading to China Beach. All along the coast the
last holdouts of the primeval 10,000 year old forest hang on… for now.