Under one canopy? Assessing the distributional environmental justice implications of street tree benefits in Barcelona

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Abstract

© 2019 Elsevier Ltd Street trees are an important component of green infrastructure in cities, providing multiple ecosystem services (ES) and hence contributing to urban resilience, sustainability and livability. Still, access to these benefits may display an uneven distribution across the urban fabric, potentially leading to socio-environmental inequalities. Some studies have analyzed the distributional justice implications of street tree spatial patterns, but generally without quantifying the associated ES provision. This research estimated the amount of air purification, runoff mitigation and temperature regulation provided by circa 200,000 street trees in Barcelona, Spain, using the i-Tree Eco tool. Results were aggregated at neighborhood (n = 73) and census tract (n = 1068) levels to detect associations with the distribution of five demographic variables indicating social vulnerability, namely: income, residents from the Global South, residents with low educational attainment, elderly residents, and children. Associations were evaluated using bivariate, multivariate and cluster analyses, including a spatial autoregressive model. Unlike previous studies, we found no evidence of a significant and positive association between the distribution of low income or Global South residents and a lower amount of street tree benefits in Barcelona. Rather, higher ES provision by street trees was associated with certain types of vulnerable populations, especially elderly citizens. Our results also suggest that street trees can play an important redistributive role in relation to the local provision of regulating ES due to the generally uneven and patchy distribution of other urban green infrastructure components such as urban forests, parks or gardens in compact cities such as Barcelona. In the light of these findings, we contend that just green infrastructure planning should carefully consider the distributive implications associated with street tree benefits.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-64
JournalEnvironmental Science and Policy
Volume102
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019

Keywords

  • Green infrastructure
  • Socio-environmental equity
  • Spatial analysis
  • Urban climate adaptation
  • Urban ecosystem services

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