Development Practices and Ordinances Predict Inter-City Variation in Florida Urban Tree Canopy Coverage

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Ecosystem services, Governance, Heritage trees, Tree ordinance, Urban forest, Urban tree canopy

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Many cities around the world have set ambitious urban tree canopy cover goals, with the expectation that urban forests will provide ecosystem services as functional green infrastructure. Numerous studies have examined intra-city spatial patterns in urban tree canopy (UTC) and found that UTC relates to socioeconomic indicators and urban form. Additionally, a few studies have shown local regulations can be linked to increased tree cover. However, the relationship between UTC and governance across different cities has not been well-explored. To address this gap, we compared the management practices enacted by 43 municipalities in Florida (United States) to investigate their potential impact on tree canopy coverage. UTC was assessed through visual interpretation of aerial images. We used multiple linear regression to predict inter-city variation in UTC based on 1) municipal forestry management practices, including whether the municipality had an arborist, tree ordinances, a municipal tree inventory, and a canopy cover goal, and 2) community sociodemographic data. UTC ranged between 17.6% and 63.3% among the municipalities assessed, with an average UTC of 33.7%. Two factors significantly predicted canopy coverage. Housing density had a negative relationship with tree canopy (P-value = 0.0116). In contrast, municipalities with heritage tree protections had 6.7% more canopy coverage (P-value = 0.0476). Future research should continue to consider the potential impacts of governance structures on the spatiotemporal dynamics of inter- and intra-city UTC patterns.

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Landscape and Urban Planning, v. 190, art. 103603