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A multi-city analysis of urban vegetation in neighborhoods and parcels: the role of socioeconomic and institutional contexts

Authors: Rinku Roy Chowdhury*, Clark University, Dexter Locke, USDA Forest Service, Carlos Dobler-Morales, Universidad Autonoma de Mexico, Morgan Grove, USDA Forest Service, Peter Groffman, City University of New York
Topics: Land Use, Urban Geography, Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: urban ecology, land use, landscape, institutions
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The expansion of urban and suburban land covers is the greatest source of landscape change in the USA today, and of increasing relevance globally. While expanding turfgrass has been linked to urban ecological homogenization, research in urban political ecology and socio-ecological systems also shows that urban vegetation is unevenly distributed, linked to socioeconomic factors, and strongly mediated by formal and informal institutions. In this paper, we undertake a multi-sited, multi-scalar study of urban vegetation at the neighborhood (census block group-CBG) and parcel scales, investigating the role of neighborhood characteristics as well as formal and informal institutions. Integrating high-resolution remote sensing, secondary data analysis, and household and parcel surveys, we find that while neighborhood urbanicity and socioeconomic status shaped cover outcomes at the CBG scale, tree and grass cover on individual parcels were strongly linked to formal and informal institutions across the cities, including homeowner and neighborhood associations. Our systematic, cross-site approach (a) complements site-specific studies of urban vegetation, (b) integrates indices of landscape structure along with the more commonly examined tree cover extents, and (c) links neighborhood scale analyses to parcel-level vegetation with a particular focus on institutional drivers. Understanding the nature and extent of differentiation of urban landscapes and vegetative cover is critical for estimating the impacts of these outcomes at the local to regional scales, for improving equity in the planning and conservation of environmental amenities, and for developing strategies targeting urban sustainability.

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