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In 1979 Harvard began to treat 285 elms, mainstays of the Yard landscape, for Dutch elm disease. By 1994, only 165 elms remained, a mortality rate of 42 percent. Treatment had cost about $375,000, or $100 per tree per year. Writing in the spring issue of Arnoldia, the magazine of the Arnold Arboretum, Peter Del Tredici, director of living collections, extrapolates that the cost of elm maintenance over 20 years would be $500,000, with mortality approaching 50 percent. (The annual cost of maintaining other trees in the Yard is about $20 each.)
In 1994 Harvard began an extensive reforestation of the Yard to replace the elms (Harvard Magazine, "Every Tree Doomed," July-August 1994, page 46). "The cost of planting 200 new trees in the Yard, most of them four to eight inches in caliper and 10 to 20 feet tall, was $470,000, or $2,350 per tree, including a one-year maintenance contract and guarantee," writes Del Tredici. That "was roughly equal to the cost of maintaining 285 elms for 20 years, of which only half will still be alive and the other half in a state of decline at the end of 20 years. To put it another way, 20 years of maintaining one large elm with only a 50 percent chance of survival costs the same as planting one new four-to-eight-inch-caliper tree."
The full text of Del Tredici's article, "The Ecology and Economics of Elm Replacement in Harvard Yard," may be found on the arboretum's website, "http://www.arboretum.harvard.edu".
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