Hedonic analysis of forest pest invasion, the case of emerald ash borer
The emerald ash borer (EAB) was first detected in North America in 2002, and since its introduction, this invasive pest has killed millions of ash trees. While EAB kills native North American ash trees in all settings, its impacts have been especially large in urban areas where ash has been a dominant street tree, especially in residential areas. While some management costs, such as insecticide treatment, tree removal, or tree replacement, are relatively straightforward to compute, the impact that EAB has had on residential property values is less clear. To better understand the economic cost of EAB in urban settings, we conducted a hedonic property value analysis to evaluate the impact of ash tree damages due to EAB infestation on housing sales prices. This study was conducted in the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which had high stocking levels of ash trees prior to EAB’s arrival. The objectives of the study are to investigate: (1) how EAB-infested ash trees affect property values; (2) whether the benefits from healthy ash trees to property value change after arrival of EAB; and (3) whether healthy ash trees located within infested neighborhoods provide the same benefits as the healthy ash trees located outside of infested neighborhoods. In general, our results show that the EAB outbreak has had a negative impact on home values for properties located in close proximity to the ash tree component of the urban forest. This result holds true for neighborhoods where EAB does not yet pose an imminent threat, and is amplified for neighborhoods where EAB has been detected. Our results highlight the early stages of a dynamic economic process that impacts urban residential property owners subject to the risk of EAB or other tree pests and diseases. In general, we find that forward-looking behavior of residential property owners is capitalized into property values during the process of forest pest infestation.