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Los Angeles 1-Million tree canopy cover assessment

Informally Refereed
Authors: Gregory E. McPherson, James R. Simpson, Qingfu Xiao, Wu Chunxia
Year: 2008
Type: General Technical Report (GTR)
Station: Pacific Southwest Research Station
Source: Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-207. Albany, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station. 52 p


The Million Trees LA initiative intends to chart a course for sustainable growth through planting and stewardship of trees. The purpose of this study was to measure Los Angeles's existing tree canopy cover (TCC), determine if space exists for 1 million additional trees, and estimate future benefits from the planting. High resolution QuickBird remote sensing data, aerial photographs, and geographic information systems were used to classify land cover types, measure TCC, and identify potential tree planting sites. Benefits were forecast for planting of 1 million trees between 2006 and 2010, and their growth and mortality were projected until 2040. Two scenarios reflected low (17 percent) and high (56 percent) mortality rates. Numerical models were used with geographic data and tree size information for coastal and inland climate zones to calculate annual benefits and their monetary value. Los Angeles's existing TCC was 21 percent, and ranged from 7 to 37 percent by council district. There is potential to add 2.5 million additional trees to the existing population of approximately 10.8 million, but only 1.3 million of the potential tree sites are deemed realistic to plant. Thus, there is space for planting 1 million new trees. Benefits for the 1-million-tree planting for the 35-year period were $1.33 billion and $1.95 billion for the high- and low-mortality scenarios, respectively. Average annual benefits were $38 and $56 per tree planted. Eighty-one percent of total benefits were aesthetic/other, 8 percent were stormwater runoff reduction, 6 percent energy savings, 4 percent air quality improvement, and less than 1 percent atmospheric carbon reduction. Recommendations included developing a decision support tool for tree selection and tracking, as well as establishing a model parking lot greening program.


Ecosystem services, urban forestry, Los Angeles, tree canopy cover, tree benefits.


McPherson, Gregory E.; Simpson, James R.; Xiao, Qingfu; Chunxia, Wu. 2008. Los Angeles 1-Million tree canopy cover assessment. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-207. Albany, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station. 52 p