Using Geospatial Data to Target High Impact Projects for Urban Greening

Urban Trees Initiative

Enhancing urban tree canopy is a proven way to lower the land temperature throughout a city, a need that grows ever more urgent as the planet warms and growing numbers of communities set new heat records. Yet in a large metropolitan area, determining the specific areas with the greatest need – and potential for trees to make a significant difference – is a challenge.

With support from the Bezos Earth Fund, the USC Dornsife Spatial Sciences Institute (SSI) as part of the USC Urban Trees Initiative is leveraging technology to create novel methods for determining which areas within five low-income neighborhoods in LA would most benefit from additional tree canopy.

SSI, which has been working to describe and analyze the existing urban canopy and plantings in the target neighborhoods, will use funding to complete data analysis and deploy remote-sensing tools that might be used by other cities to determine canopy needs – including analyzing which tree to plant, why and with what anticipated return on investment.

Equity Research Institute

The USC Equity Research Institute (ERI) – a Latino-led and majority people of color research institute, will partner with PolicyLink and local city leaders and community-based partners, starting with Atlanta, Georgia and Los Angeles, to accelerate urban greening initiatives in an effort to narrow the climate and infrastructure equity gaps

Specifically, ERI will develop four new environmental justice and climate equity indicators disaggregated by race, ethnicity, ancestry, nativity, gender, poverty status (and possibly more) to be integrated into the National Equity Atlas, a tool and policy resource that provides data on demographic change, racial and economic inclusion, and potential policy impacts. They will also develop a prototype of an indicator, and associated analysis methodology, to measure how close people live to green spaces and parks in Los Angeles, and whether access to those spaces is equitable. The indicators would be developed in partnership with environmental justice movement leaders to support their advocacy for new and expanded local, state, and federal-level investments in environmental justice and climate equity based on publicly available data.

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