Urban Tree Cover, Vegetation Diversity, and Asthma: Evidence from 500 Cities

Authors: Shawn Landry*, University of South Florida, Geoffrey H Donovan, USDA Forest Service, PNW Research Station, Portland, OR, USA.
Topics: Coupled Human and Natural Systems, Urban Geography, Geography and Urban Health
Keywords: human health, cities, vegetation, species diversity
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2020
Start / End Time: 10:15 AM / 11:30 AM
Room: Director's Row H, Sheraton, Plaza Building, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The relationships between vegetation, urban forests and human health impacts have been studied for decades; at least as early as Ulrich’s 1984 article, View through a window may influence recovery from surgery. Evidence has been mixed, particularly as it relates to the link between vegetation and asthma. A recent review by Eisenman et al. found no consensus that trees reduce asthma by improving air quality, but urban trees could be protective of asthma through other mechanisms, such as reduced stress or increased physical activity. This study considers the hygiene hypothesis that suggests exposure to vegetation diversity may increase microbial exposure, promote immune maturation, and reduce the incidence of asthma. Research related to human health impacts is often limited by the availability of detailed health-outcome data. We take advantage of the census tract-level health data provide by the CDC’s 500 Cities project to examine the potential link between urban tree cover, vegetation species diversity and asthma. Using over 29,000 census tracts within the 48 contiguous states of the US, we examine the association between asthma outcomes, and tree cover provided by the National Land Cover Database (NLCD) and species diversity provided by the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). We also control for various sociodemographic characteristics using US Census data. This presentation will highlight the preliminary results of the study and discuss the potential implications for future urban forest research related to the health impacts of trees and vegetation.

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