Tracking Tree Canopy Cover Change in Worcester’s Greendale and Burncoat Neighborhoods​ 1952-2008​

Authors: Benjamin Ryan*, Clark University, John Rogan, Clark University, Marc Healy, Clark University, Deborah Martin, Clark University
Topics: Urban Geography, Geographic Information Science and Systems, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: Urban tree canopy, GIS, tree canopy cover change, urban greening, urban forestry, aerial photo interpretation, land use, land use change, suburbanization, urban planning
Session Type: Virtual Poster
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 51
Presentation File: Download



Tree canopy cover in urban areas provides aesthetic value, mental and physical health benefits to residents and helps mitigate the urban heat island effect. The city of Worcester, Massachusetts witnessed rapid deindustrialization, urban flight, and substantial suburban growth within the last fifty years. However, little research has investigated urban tree canopy change or the sociodemographic processes effects that cause canopy change. This study addresses this question: How has urban tree canopy cover and land-use changed in northern Worcester between 1952-2008, and which socioeconomic processes have caused change? Tree cover was mapped through the creation of polygons in 1950s-era aerial photographs, and a 2008 LIDAR survey. Land-use change was mapped using historical maps from 1951 and 2005. Results show that there was a 118.75% gain in tree cover over the time period. The largest change in land-use occurred between and a total loss of pastureland and over 50% gain in urban land. The F4 tornado (1953) and subsequent tree planting along major streets also likely played a strong role in tree cover change.

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