City Trees

January/February 2024

City Trees is a premier publication focused on urban + community forestry. In each issue, you’ll learn how to best manage the trees in your community and more!

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Page 27 of 39

USFS and Partners Street Tree Diversity Reveals a Legacy of Redlining Authors: Nancy F. Sonti, USFS Research Ecologist Dexter H. Locke, USFS Research Social Scientist Meghan L. Avolio, Associate Professor, Johns Hopkins University Karin T. Burghardt, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland College Park Fred Chalfant, Urban Forester, Baltimore City Dept of Recreation & Parks J. Morgan Grove, USFS Research Forester Sam Seo, TreeBaltimore Manager, Baltimore City Dept of Recreation & Parks Christopher M. Swan, Professor, University of Maryland Baltimore County Phil Rodbell, USFS National Program Leader for Urban Forestry Research In a recent article published in the journal Ecology, our research team reported that neighborhoods in Baltimore that were redlined have consistently lower street tree diversity and are nine times less likely to have large (old) trees occupying a viable planting site. What does this mean for those who live in these neighborhoods, and what steps might cities like Baltimore take to mit- igate this structural challenge in their urban forests? For biodiversity experts, street trees provide a unique study population because trees can live for many decades, and patterns of street tree size, dis- tribution, and diversity reflect both present-day and historical public policy and management decisions. Recent studies have discovered that exclusionary housing discrimination and segregation, reflected in the Home Owners' Loan Corporation (HOLC) mapping program, left an imprint on both the social and ecological landscape of American cities. In this New Deal initiative created to expand home- ownership following the Great Depression, the HOLC classified and color-coded neighborhoods in 239 cities by perceived mortgage risk—green was designated as "best" for a loan while red was deemed "hazardous." Neighborhoods that were "redlined" had characteris- tics of high-density, poor housing stock, proximity to undesirable land uses, and large percentages of Black, Catholic, Jewish, or immigrant populations. These institu- tionalized, race-based practices have had lasting impacts on property values, generational wealth accumulation, public health, and neighborhood investment in cities across the United States. For example, redlining has become associated with lower homeownership rates, shorter life expectancies, and poorer overall health. Urban ecologists have also found that formerly A-graded neighborhoods are significantly cooler than D-graded neighborhoods with nearly twice the total vegetation and tree canopy, and higher net ecosystem services. Thus, the investment (or dis-investment) in a neighborhood based on a program that ended in the 1960s can predict environmental conditions 60 years later.In addition, since the amount of plants, the base of the food chain, varies within cities according to HOLC grades, it has been proposed that redlining may predict entire urban food webs. Correlations between historic HOLC classifi- cation and present-day patterns of biodiversity have >> 28 CityTREES

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