The Impact of Land Development Regulation on Residential Tree Cover: An Empirical Evaluation Using High-Resolution IKONOS Imagery

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policy evaluation, environmental planning, urban ecology, tree cover classification, spatial analysis

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Public sector policies regulating land development can have a major influence on the environmental impacts of urban development, yet few empirical studies have examined the impact of these policies. Our study attempted to address this gap by examining the relationship between a land development code associated with the protection of trees and the extent of urban tree cover on residential parcels. We developed an accurate very high resolution urban tree cover classification using IKONOS imagery, quantified parcel-specific tree cover and evaluated the relationship between year of construction, adoption of a tree ordinance and extent of canopy cover in Tampa, Florida, USA and in nearby areas lacking similar regulation. Statistical results revealed significantly greater tree cover on parcels with homes built after compared to before adoption of tree protection policies, despite a trend toward increased building cover. After controlling for the effects of spatial dependence and relevant physical and socio-demographic characteristics at the census block, multivariate regression results indicate the percentage of homes built after implementing the policy was a strong predictor of increased tree cover. These results and comparisons with nearby areas further suggest Tampa's 1974 tree protection regulations appears to have been effective at increasing tree cover, but other influential factors were also at work. This study demonstrates the potential for evaluating the impact of specific land development policies using remote sensing and other spatial data analysis techniques. In addition, we argue that scientific evidence of the effectiveness of past policy should be used a guide for the creation of future land development regulation.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Landscape and Urban Planning, v. 94, issue 2, p. 94-104