Publication Date

March 2019

Urban trees provide an abundance of benefits to city residents. Information about the geographic distribution of urban trees is critical to ensure equitable access to these benefits. Street trees are unique among urban trees because they are often managed by municipalities as a public resource, but they are challenging to manage in part because they are spatially dispersed across a city in close proximity to private property. While street tree inventory data sets are costly to generate, they provide important information to understand the spatial distribution of trees in the city and to plan for ongoing street tree management. Here, we utilize two street inventories collected at a 13-year interval to assess patterns and changes in municipal street tree distributions in Center Township, Indianapolis, IN. In the township as a whole, tree density, basal area, and taxonomic diversity increased markedly over time. Spatial autoregressive models were constructed to examine the relationship between socioeconomic characteristics and street tree population dynamics. Concurrent, legacy, and change models revealed significant associations between socioeconomic factors and street tree distributions. Specifically, tree density and taxonomic diversity were positively associated with educational attainment, and increases in tree density over time were negatively associated with the percent of the population that identifies as black or African American. Results suggest that despite overall increases in street trees, persistent inequalities in street tree access should be addressed in central Indianapolis neighborhoods.