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Abstract

Trees play an important role in the function of urban ecosystems. Beyond their role as a habitat for birds and other animals, trees provide an array of essential ecosystem services: stormwater management (Berland et al. 2017), temperature control (Coseo and Larsen 2014), air pollution reduction (Nowak, Crane and Stevens 2006), and carbon sequestration (Kendall and McPherson 2012), among other ecosystem services. Recent research has focused on the relationship between rentership rates and the distribution of this environmental amenity in residential areas. The landmark research on this subject is from Perkins, Heynen and Wilson (2004), who examined a tree-planting program in Milwaukee and found a statistically significant negative correlation between rentership rates and residential canopy cover at the census tract level. Based on their review of the literature on differences between renter and owner-occupied housing, the authors suggest two factors that may produce this relationship: residential mobility, as renters are relatively transient and are unlikely to ever benefit from the trees they plant, and housing maintenance, as it is disadvantageous for renters to invest in improvements that enhance property values and may result in rising rents. Several other studies have investigated this relationship and have similarly found an inverse correlation between rentership and lower tree cover, in various cities at various spatial scales (Heynen, Perkins and Roy 2006; Landry and Chakraborty 2009; Koo et al. 2019). Although tree cover is not necessarily a perfect proxy for the ecosystem services provided by the urban forest, as Riley and Gardiner (2020) found in their comparison of tree canopy cover with a spatial measure of ecosystem service dollars, it remains a readily available and widely-used figure to assess the distribution of these benefits.

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