Dr Lorien NESBITT, Cecil KONIJNENDIJK, Michael MEITNER, Cynthia GIRLING and Stephen SHEPPARD
Institution: University of British Columbia – Canada
About: Lorien Nesbitt is a Postdoctoral Research and Teaching Fellow with a joint appointment in the Faculty of Forestry and the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia (UBC). Starting in July 2019, Lorien will be an Assistant Professor of Urban Forestry in UBC’s Faculty of Forestry. Her research focuses on urban forestry and socio-ecological interactions in urban environments, with an emphasis on environmental justice, human health and well-being, and climate change. Lorien employs mixed methods approaches, as appropriate to the research project, and has expertise ranging from spatial analysis and machine learning to qualitative interview analysis and survey design. Lorien’s current research examines 1) the relationship between greenness exposure and public health outcomes in urban environments, with a focus on spatio-temporal metrics and new remote sensing data sources; 2) urban forest governance and resilience to social and ecological stresses; and 3) urban green equity in multicultural cities.
Keywords: Urban Forests, Nature-based Solutions, Urban Green Equity, Environmental Justice, Sustainability
Urban forests are a key tool to provide nature-based solutions (NBS) to create more liveable cities. Given the importance of NBS to urban residents, it is important to evaluate 1) the distributional equity of urban forests that form part of NBS, and 2) the recognitional equity of processes to co-create and manage NBS at the local level.
This research examined the distributional equity of urban forests in 10 US cities. Urban forests were characterized three ways (mixed vegetation, woody vegetation, and public parks), to reflect the variable NBS associated with different types of urban vegetation. Data were analysed using Spearman’s correlations and spatial autoregressive models. The research also examined the key dimensions of recognitional equity in co-creating NBS via an analysis and synthesis of relevant literature.
Strong positive associations were observed between urban forests, higher education and income across most cities. Negative associations between racialized status and urban forests were observed but were weaker and less common. Park area was more equitably distributed than mixed and woody vegetation, although inequities existed across all cities and vegetation types. Four dimensions of recognitional equity emerged from the analysis that can inform how NBS are designed, planned and operationalized at the local level.
Cities are spaces in which the world’s populations meet and co-create urban forests and NBS. This reality provides opportunities for mutual learning and improved resilience but can also lead to inequity in our access to and governance of NBS. Our findings can stimulate strategies to foster equitable planning and implementation of truly co-created NBS.