by N Davis, PL Winter
Urban Forestry & Urban Greening 64: 1272442021
Trees have many benefits for humans: providing shade, oxygen, food, lower air pollution, aesthetic enjoyment, and lower temperatures. Yet in Los Angeles many residents report intentions to plant fewer trees in the future, while tree canopy cover on residential properties in the city has declined. This study explored resident preferences around the type of trees they would be interested in planting around their property (home lot, neighboring lot, and city park) and the reasons behind the decisions.
The authors designed an interactive game where participants “planted their street” with 0-8 trees. Eight different tree species (and eight of each) were offered as choices. The different species represented four types of trees representing different ecosystem functions: fruiting, flowering, carbon capturing, and climate adaptive. Results showed that 97% of the maximum number of trees were planted; and 87% of participants planted the maximum allowed eight trees. Participants also showed a preference for planting multiple tree types and species. Carbon capturing trees were the most planted type, followed by flowering, fruiting, and climate adaptive.
Tree type preferences were driven by two themes, perceived tree services and self-versus other. However, tree type preferences varied by neighborhood location. In city parks carbon capturing trees were the most planted; but in neighboring lots flowering trees were the most common. On home lots the most preferred tree varied between easement, front yard, and back yard. Perceived services and self-versus other were again underlying themes for the placement of trees in the neighborhood, along with geography and personal connection.
The authors concluded that the game-based design was successful in illuminating residential tree preferences as well as the motivations underlying those preferences. It is suggested that more dialogue around tree services and those nuances is merited and could prove highly beneficial to urban forestry programs.