by LE Dawes, AE Adams, FJ Escobedo, JR Soto
Urban Ecosystems 21:657-6712018
Urban tree cover can provide a range of social, environmental and economic benefits to communities, but inequitable distribution can lead to low-income and minority communities having fewer trees and thus benefits. As many cities look to increase their tree canopy cover, tree giveaways to residents have become a means of encouraging planting on private property. However, there are concerns that these programs do not always consider different preferences within the community and little is known about community perceptions of the program and barriers to participation. Dawes et al. used a mixed-methods approach to explore how socio-economic factors and tree functional types influenced residents’ participation in a tree distribution program in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Additionally, barriers to participation were investigated. Results showed that 21% of respondents were aware of the program but only 13% had previously participated. Non-white respondents had both the lowest awareness of (Hispanic/Latino), and participation in (Black/African American), the tree distribution program. Income was also a significant influence on participation barriers; respondents with incomes under $50,000 had the highest barrier scores, as did Black/African American respondents. Surprisingly, lower income residents showed less preference towards a delivery option than higher income residents. Tree type preference also showed variation over the socio-demographic characteristics studied. Overall, and among both Hispanic/Latino and Black/African Americans, “fruit trees” were the most preferred type of tree. In contrast, Caucasian and higher income residents preferred “native trees” over the other three types. All groups preferred shade trees the least, creating a potential mismatch with the city’s aim of increasing the tree canopy cover. Results suggest that better advertising of the tree distribution program is needed, especially for minority and lower income communities. Another suggestion was for the distribution programs to pay more attention to their choice of staff for these events, as a diverse staff might help encourage participation among minority communities. Finally, the authors advise increased outreach to Hispanic/Latino communities, potentially in Spanish, in order to improve program awareness.