Land use and socio-economic contributors to urban forest pattern and diversity: Evidence from Cook County, IL

Authors: Chao Fan*, University of Idaho
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Remote Sensing, Spatial Analysis & Modeling
Keywords: Urban forests, stem density, species diversity, land use, socio-economic, social inequality
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Taylor, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The spatial distribution of urban greenness is largely influenced by land use composition and social factors. This study builds upon previous research focusing on urban forest patterns in relation to land use and socio-economic determinants, while expanding the set of measures used to represent the forest structure. In addition to canopy cover which is a common metric for understanding forest pattern, this study examines two key attributes, stem density and species diversity as effective descriptors of forest structure and evaluates them in relation to a variety of land use and socio-economic indicators in Cook County, Illinois. A multitude of tree records from field surveys and remotely sourced data sets are used collectively in addressing the following questions: (1) Can canopy cover alone adequately describe the forest pattern in Cook County? (2) Does the forest pattern measured as described by canopy cover, stem density, and species diversity vary spatially? and (3) To what extent is the spatial variability explained by the land use distributions and a defined set of socio-economic variables? Our results show that the land use and socio-economic factors are better correlates with canopy cover and stem density than species diversity. Overall, Cook County’s urban forest is unevenly distributed across census tracts, with wealth, education, racial composition, and home ownership playing different roles in shaping the forest structure. Our study also identifies the many challenges the urban forest is currently facing and highlights key priorities for future planning and management efforts towards a healthier, more diverse regional forest.

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