URBAN TREE CANOPY ASSESSMENTWest Palm Beach, Florida, USA
PURPOSE OF THIS URBAN TREE CANOPY ASSESSMENT
The City of West Palm Beach, a Tree City USA member for 25 years, is located within Palm Beach County, Florida. It is approximately 58 square miles or 36,952 acres, of which 33,181 acres are land. The Grassy Waters Preserve (GWP) occupies 15,293 acres (14,970 land acres) in the northwest part of the City and provides the majority of its drinking water. Across the city, trees along streets, in parks, yards, and natural areas constitute a valuable urban and community forest. This resource is a critical element of the region’s green infrastructure, contributing to environmental quality, public health, water supply, the local economy, and aesthetics. The primary goal of this assessment was to provide a baseline and benchmark of the City’s tree canopy and interpret the distribution of tree canopy and planting areas across a range of geographic boundaries.
URBAN TREE CANOPY IN WEST PALM BEACH
This assessment focused on measuring tree canopy coverage in the urban, developed areas of West Palm Beach but also mapped land cover in the GWP. Most results are presented for the City’s urban areas (21,659 total acres or 18,211 land acres, excluding the GWP) in order to provide the most useful data for urban planning. Land cover results indicated that in 2017, the urban areas of West Palm Beach including water bodies contained 25% tree canopy (5,404 acres), 27% non-canopy vegetation (5,916 acres), 1% soil or dry vegetation (179 acres), 31% impervious (6,711 acres), and 16% water (3,448 acres).
Whereas land cover results are a percentage of the study area’s total acres, urban tree canopy (UTC) and possible planting area (PPA) results are based on land area only, equal to the total area minus water (21,659 – 3,448 = 18,211 land acres). When water was removed from the study area, urban areas of West Palm Beach had 30% existing tree canopy (5,404 acres), 33% possible planting
area (5,971 acres), and 37% areas that were unsuitable for
future tree plantings due to current land use or other restraint (3,837 acres).
However, urban tree canopy in West Palm Beach was not evenly distributed. UTC in the City’s commission districts ranged from 24-41%. When the GWP, which has a UTC of 44% (6,653 of 14,970 land acres) was included in the analysis, UTC cover for the entire study area was 36% (12,057 of West Palm Beach’s 33,181 land acres) due to the high density of trees found within the Preserve. Tree canopy was compared with several metrics of sustainability themes selected by the City to reflect some of their STAR rating categories, such as public health and stormwater. A strong negative correlation between tree canopy and asthma hospitalizations was observed.
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Urban Tree Canopy Assessment Insights
Acres of Canopy
Possible Planting Area
Urban Tree Canopy