Trees in an Urbanizing World - Patterns of Environmental Equity in North American Cities

Authors: Jeremy Cantor*, PlanIT Geo
Topics: Environment, Urban and Regional Planning, Geographic Information Science and Systems
Keywords: trees, canopy, forest, urban, community, green infrastructure, equity, health, map, GIS, remote sensing, demographic, socioeconomic
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2020
Start / End Time: 11:50 AM / 1:05 PM
Room: Director's Row H, Sheraton, Plaza Building, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Cities throughout the world are realizing the benefits that trees provide to their environment as well as to residents and visitors. Across these urban environments, trees along streets, in parks, yards, and natural areas constitute a valuable urban and community forest. This resource is a critical element of a region’s green infrastructure, contributing to environmental quality, public health, water supply, the local economy, and aesthetics. Because of this, mapping and measuring the urban forest is becoming increasingly important in order to quantify these benefits and ensure that they are maintained as urban growth continues.

A tree canopy assessment uses GIS and remote sensing techniques to map all tree canopy cover and other land cover types at various planning scales. From this land cover dataset, various information can be extracted and analyzed: distribution of tree canopy on public/private lands or zoning types, locations of plantable space, amount of tree canopy change, and correlations between tree canopy and various environmental, demographic, and socioeconomic factors.

PlanIT Geo has performed nearly 80 of these tree canopy assessments dating back to 2012 in diverse communities across the United States and Canada. Examples include Colorado Springs, CO, Columbus, OH, Washington, D.C., Dallas, TX, and many others. We will discuss examples of noteworthy ties between tree canopy cover and social variables such as public health, income, racial diversity, and educational attainment, among others, and tools available to city and forest managers that can help target specific areas for policy and planning action.

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