Climate Ready Trees

Drs. Greg McPherson and Natalie van Doorn of the US Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station are partnered with Dr. Alison Berry of UC Davis and her team to conduct a longitudinal study of resilience of urban tree species. This Climate Ready Trees study uses selected species anticipated to be suited for southern California’s future climate conditions. This study will inform improved species selection. Partners such as the Los Angeles Beautification Team and Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Department are helping to make this long term work possible by aiding planting and maintenance of the trees.

Los Angeles County Tree Canopy Viewer

The Angeles County Tree Canopy Viewer displays a high-resolution assessment of LA County’s existing and potential tree canopy cover. Fine scale 8-class land cover was combined with data from CalEnviroScreen, demographic, and urban heat data to assess existing conditions and identify potential priority areas where enhanced urban greening could contribute to climate resilience, environmental equity, and public health improvement. More detailed maps, including multiple land cover types, can be found from the Los Angeles County Tree Canopy Advanced Viewer. A Story Map is available for more information about this project. TreePeople and the Center for Urban Resilience (CURes) at Loyola Marymount University developed the viewer through a grant funded by US Forest Service and CALFIRE. The Consulting Group at SavATree and the University of Vermont Spatial Analysis Lab supported analysis of spatial distribution of green infrastructure in Los Angeles. The map viewers are developed by Dr. Shenyue Jia at the Center of Excellence in Earth Systems Modeling and Observations (CEESMO), Chapman University.


In 2016, the LA Urban Center developed a research partnership with Loyola Marymount University’s Center for Urban Resilience to support the Los Angeles Stewardship Mapping and Assessment Project (LA STEW-MAP). Led by LMU research scientist Dr. Michele Romolini, LA STEW-MAP is part of a national research program that seeks to answer the questions: Which environmental stewardship groups are working across urban landscapes? Where, why, how, and to what effect? STEW-MAP defines a “stewardship group” as a civic organization or group that works to conserve, manage, monitor, advocate for, and/or educate the public about their local environments. Through a web-based organizational survey, researchers gather information on the characteristics of stewardship groups, the locations of their stewardship activities, and how they collaborate and share information through networks. LA STEW-MAP results will offer an improved understanding of where and how environmental stewardship organizations are working in Los Angeles. One applied goal of the project is to use the data to produce resources including maps and reports that can be used by stewardship organizations.

Inspiring Engagement: Identifying Tree Stewardship Best Practices in Environmental Justice Areas

Combatting climate change requires a broad defense that includes reducing greenhouse gases while building an arsenal of green infrastructure. Disadvantaged, environmental justice communities are often the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Building up environmental assets, like trees, will help these communities develop resilience in the face of a changing climate. Edith De Guzman (TreePeople), Jennifer Tabanico, (Action Research, Community-Based Social Marketing) and Lori Large (California State University, Fullerton) aim to identify tree stewardship best practices in environmental justice areas. The goal of the study is to analyze factors that inhibit disadvantaged, environmental justice communities from building, maintaining, or advancing their urban forests through community based social marketing strategies.

View the Study >>

LA’s Urban Forest Since 1985, Understanding the Drought through Historical Satellite Data

The long-term viability of Los Angeles’ urban forests are at considerable risk due to the drought and irrigation policy decisions made in response water shortages. Drs. Andrew Marx and Brian Hilton of Claremont Graduate University with John Tagenberg of the Council for Watershed Heath are analyzing historical drought data to track, analyze, predict, and possibly influence the watering and irrigation policies toward urban forestry. Using historical imagery from U.S. Geological Survey developed specifically for climate change analysis, the researchers plan to create interactive “Story Maps” in ArcGIS to document the effect of drought on the 10 urban forests throughout a 30 year period.

Plant your street! A research game exploring tree selection and placement in an urban neighborhood

Enhancing urban tree canopy is largely dependent on neighborhood and residential plantings (Locke et al., 2010; O’Neil-Dunne, 2019). However, residential tree canopy in Los Angeles County is in decline (Lee et al., 2017). This project engaged visitors to public venues in the City of Los Angeles in a ‘plant your street’ research game, where they navigated a gameboard, depicting a neighborhood, including more public (e.g. a city park) and private areas, such as the understudied backyard (Cook et al., 2012).

Participants were told to imagine, as best they could, their own street and yard as they played, and then plant trees that were categorized by a prominent ecosystem service, with some (intentionally) more visible than others: fruit bearing, flowering, climate adaptive, and carbon capture. Three questions were explored: (1)What trees do people prefer around their homes and why? (2) Will the option of planting in different neighborhood areas influence preferences and placements? (3) Will tree descriptions, highlighting a prominent ecosystem service, be associated with selection and placement?

Participants “thought aloud” as they played the game. Their selections and placements, as well as their comments and reasoning, were documented, coded and analyzed. Results revealed that some trees were selected more often than others overall, and, within different neighborhood areas; for example, the majority of trees planted on the home lot were in the backyard. Themes underlying these decisions included: perceived tree services, self-versus other, and geography and personal connection.  Findings provide an improved understanding of urban tree planting preferences and may help inform residential tree planting programs.

Los Angeles Urban Forest Equity Collective

Greener and Cooler: Urban Forest Equity for a Resilient Los Angeles
2020 – 2023

Established in 2020, LA’s Urban Forest Equity Collective (UFEC) brings together a team of researchers, practitioners, policy makers, and community-based organizations to create a holistic analysis and implementation plan to advance urban forest equity in LA’s lowest-canopied neighborhoods, addressing decades of systemic disinvestment that have resulted in poor public health outcomes, limited access to green spaces, and a host of related consequences ranging from heat exposure and poor air quality, to food insecurity and reduced ecosystem services. Outcomes of this project will include a street-by-street classification of LA’s potential tree canopy in two pilot neighborhoods, applying the “tiered model” presented in Phase I of the Urban Forest Equity Visiting Scholar project, ranging from readily plantable to more difficult planting scenarios. This classification will be used to create neighborhood-level implementation plans that include costs and benefits of realizing the varied planting tiers, engage partnering community organizations in addressing barriers to deployment, and identify policy and funding pathways to ensure implementation. Connections to related efforts will be explored and forged, including to LA’s Urban Forest Management Plan, setting the course for the future of LA’s urban forest for years to come. This project will create a replicable framework that can be used regionally and beyond Los Angeles, and it will culminate with a demonstration of planting and increasing tree canopy in target neighborhoods following the tiered approach.