Redlining was a racially discriminatory housing policy established by the federal government’s Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) during the 1930s. For decades, redlining limited access to homeownership and wealth creation among racial minorities, contributing to a host of adverse social outcomes, including high unemployment, poverty, and residential vacancy, that persist today. While the multigenerational socioeconomic impacts of redlining are increasingly understood, the impacts on urban environments and ecosystems remain unclear. To begin to address this gap, we investigated how the HOLC policy administered 80 years ago may relate to present-day tree canopy at the neighborhood level. Urban trees provide many ecosystem services, mitigate the urban heat island effect, and may improve quality of life in cities. In our prior research in Baltimore, MD, we discovered that redlining policy influenced the location and allocation of trees and parks. Our analysis of 37 metropolitan areas here shows that areas formerly graded D, which were mostly inhabited by racial and ethnic minorities, have on average ~23% tree canopy cover today. Areas formerly graded A, characterized by U.S.-born white populations living in newer housing stock, had nearly twice as much tree canopy (~43%). Results are consistent across small and large metropolitan regions. Themore »
Addressing how ecosystem services (ES) are distributed among groups of people is critical for making conservation and environmental policy-making more equitable. Here, we evaluate the distribution and equity of changes in ES benefits across demographic and socioeconomic groups in the United States (US) between 2020 and 2100. Specifically, we use land cover and population projections to model potential shifts in the supply, demand, and benefits of the following ES: provision of clean air, protection against a vector-borne disease (West Nile virus), and crop pollination. Across the US, changes in ES benefits are unevenly distributed among socioeconomic and demographic groups and among rural and urban communities, but are relatively uniform across geographic regions. In general, non-white, lower-income, and urban populations disproportionately bear the burden of declines in ES benefits. This is largely driven by the conversion of forests and wetlands to cropland and urban land cover in counties where these populations are expected to grow. In these locations, targeted land use policy interventions are required to avoid exacerbating inequalities already present in the US.
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