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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An exploration of urban green equity in North America Nesbitt, Lorien


Urban vegetation provides a suite of ecosystem services to urban residents, from regulating microclimate to supporting good physical health. As more and more people make cities their home, urban vegetation is becoming a key part of urban residents’ well-being. Urban green equity is a central aspect of the distribution of and governance over urban vegetation and its associated ecosystem services. While issues of equity in urban forestry are of clear importance in a just society, it is unclear how the concept should be defined and analyzed. To begin to address this gap, this dissertation 1) examines the theoretical dimensions of urban green equity from multiple perspectives, 2) explores how urban forestry practitioners understand and use the concept of urban green equity in three case-study cities in the United States (US), and 3) conducts a spatial analysis of distributional green equity across 10 urbanized areas in the US. The research found 1) that there are multiple, related dimensions of urban green equity centred around two principle dimensions: distribution of urban vegetation and recognition of stakeholders in urban vegetation decision making, 2) that urban forestry practitioners collectively have a nuanced and complex understanding of urban green equity and tend to focus on distributional equity in their definitions and use of the concept, and 3) that distributional green inequity exists across multiple urbanized areas in the US, education and income are the factors most strongly predictive of the spatial distribution of urban vegetation, and public parks tend to be more equitably distributed than mixed and woody vegetation in cities. It is my hope that these results, and the methodological and conceptual approaches and frameworks provided by this research will be used to advance the rigorous study of urban green equity and improve urban green equity in practice in cities around the world.

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