Our work on urban forestry began in collaboration with NYC Department of Parks & Recreation, Queens College and the University of Vermont and with funding from the US Forest Service to study the effects of tree cover on health, health behaviors and pollution levels. The results of the work have been published in the Journal of Applied Remote Sensing and Environmental Health Perspectives. For the project we used 2010 LiDAR data to create a high definition model, accurate to 6 inches, of the tree canopy of NYC, which is now available through the NYC OpenData portal. We are now studying the links between tree canopy cover, surface temperature and mental health among high school students in LA County and and between tree canopy cover, green space and cognitive decline among older adults in Northern Manhattan.
Below is an example of the LiDAR point elevation data from NYC rendered in 3D.
Analyses of these LiDAR data allowed us to create a highly accurate map of land cover in NYC and to specifically identify tree canopy cover. The image below shows an aerial photograph and the corresponding section of the land cover map – tree canopy cover is indicated in bright green. From this land cover map we can easily quantify the extent of tree canopy within a 0.25 km radius circle around the indicated home address. We are applying these same methods to LiDAR data from LA County to quantify annual tree canopy cover from 2008 to 2016.