Exploring the relationships between tree canopy cover and socioeconomic characteristics in tropical urban systems: the case of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

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Apr 02, 2021
Sebastián Martinuzzi, Dexter H. Locke, Olga Ramos-González, Monika Sanchez, J. Morgan Grove, Tischa A. Muñoz-Erickson, Wayne J. Arendt, and Gerald Bauer



Understanding the distribution of urban tree canopy cover and its relationship with socioeconomic characteristics is critical for informing urban planning and ecological research. However, most knowledge on this topic comes from studies in high-income countries (e.g., North America), and thus, little is known for other cultural, ecological, and political contexts. Here, we derived a high-spatial resolution (1.2 m) land-use/land-cover map for the tropical city of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and examined how socioeconomic characteristics (i.e., population density, socioeconomic status, detached homes, homeownership, and householder’s age) relate to residential tree canopy cover at the neighborhood scale. We found that previous theory developed in North American cities applied only partially to Santo Domingo. Of the five socioeconomic variables examined, only two showed relationships with tree canopy consistent with previous findings from North American cities. In particular, socioeconomic status, one of the better-studied correlates of urban tree canopy, was not positively associated with tree canopy cover. At the same time, our new land-use/land-cover map revealed the presence of important areas with low levels of tree canopy cover, which may require additional attention by city planners. Our study reinforces the value of high-spatial resolution satellite data for examining urban areas, and highlights the need for further understanding the characteristics related to the distribution of tree canopy cover outside North America.

Read the full article in Urban Forestry and Urban Greening.

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