Characterizing historical urban canopy cover change in a post-industrial city

Authors: Marc Healy*, Clark University
Topics: Remote Sensing, Urban Geography, Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: Urban Forestry, Historical Urban Canopy Cover Mapping, Legacy Effect
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Congressional A, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Urban forests are typically studied through the lens of their current benefits, socioeconomic factors, and planting/maintenance policies—often overlooking the historical factors that have led to current conditions. Urban tree location/distribution, structure, growth and health, and associated benefits, reflect past, state and city-level planting initiatives and programs. This historical legacy has played out within post-industrial cities in Massachusetts, resulting in low canopy cover and ecosystem services compared to wealthier neighboring towns and cities. This study investigates the trends in tree cover and distribution in the city of Chelsea, the first city in the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Greening the Gateway Cities tree planting program. Chelsea, a former shipbuilding and manufacturing hub, is an example of how canopy coverage and human drivers interact within a post-industrial city. Canopy cover maps for 1952, 1969, and 2014 will be evaluated in the context of the relevant political and planning initiatives at the time. This historical perspective will allow for an enhanced understanding of the current urban forest and how its legacy has affected urban heat island (mapped using thermal imagery) across the city.

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