Environmental inequality is a phenomenon drawing much attention in the scientific and policy-making debates about urban forests and city greening. Most studies on the subject have shown that socially vulnerable, multicultural neighborhoods are disproportionately affected by the lack of urban forest while richer neighborhoods tend to be greener. But are there differences in the resilience of urban forests between poor and rich neighborhoods? We tackled this question using a newly developed indicator of urban forest resilience, functional diversity, to determine if environmental injustice is also found in the resilience of urban forests in poor neighborhoods. Using Canadian census data at the census tract scale, Sentinel-2 satellite imagery and urban tree inventories, this study investigated if urban forest resilience is also part of the environmental inequality phenomenon in four urban areas in eastern Canada: Toronto, Gatineau-Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City. Multivariate analysis of the dataset shows that urban forest functional diversity, used as an indicator of resilience, is inversely correlated to a set of variables associated with social vulnerability. The same relationship also exists with canopy cover; a pattern of inequality found in many cities around the world. With these findings, we show that social vulnerability and urban forest resilience are intertwined, meaning that neighborhoods already lacking urban forest are also more at risk of losing it due to a sudden environmental disturbance. When confronted with global change, considering this new insight into urban environmental inequality could be of great importance for maintaining a comfortable living environment for every city-dweller.
Landry, F., Dupras, J., & Messier, C. (2020). Convergence of urban forest and socio-economic indicators of resilience: A study of environmental inequality in four major cities in eastern Canada. Landscape and Urban Planning, 202. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2020.103856