Date of Award

Summer 6-24-2020

Semester of Degree


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D. in Environmental Science


Environmental Science, Division of

Major Professor

Charles N. Kroll

Steering Committee Member

Colin M. Beier

Steering Committee Member

David J. Nowak

Steering Committee Member

Lemir Teron

Steering Committee Member

Mary B. Collins


Trees provide important ecosystem services and benefits, with some, such as air pollutant and heat reductions, being linked to improved human health and well-being. With numerous tree planting initiatives being undertaken in different cities, careful thought needs to be put into considering the placement of trees, their beneficiaries as well as viable alternatives. Using a spatially distributed implementation of the i-Tree suite of ecosystem service models and mapping tools, this research estimated the current and future ecosystem services and benefits of a recent tree planting initiative within each census block group of the Bronx, NY for 2010 and for three 2030 tree cover scenarios (assuming different mortality rates). Results highlight how tree cover and benefits can be enhanced by maintaining existing canopy and ensuring the survival of newly planted trees. Traditional and non-traditional quantitative approaches of assessing environmental equity were used to establish whether there is an equitable distribution of ecosystem services derived from trees among various socio-demographic and socio- economic variables at the census block group level in the Bronx, NY. All ecosystem services and benefits appear to be unequally and inequitably distributed, with disadvantaged socio- demographic and socio-economic block groups receiving disproportionately lower ecosystem services from urban trees. The vast majority of the inequality is explained by variations within each socio-demographic and socio-economic subgroup rather than variations between subgroups. To guide future greening initiatives towards prioritizing planting locations that maximize multiple objectives, as well as the best areas to preserve urban forests and achieve equity, a spatially explicit methodology was used to develop a multi-objective decision support framework which was applied in the Bronx, NY to identify optimal planting locations. Overall, the findings of this research have the potential to guide more local and fine scale decision making regarding where to improve or protect tree cover and maximize the services and benefits of trees.