A time series of urban forestry in Los Angeles

By Thomas Welch Gillespie, Stephanie Pincetl, Shea Brossard, Jenny Smith, Sassan Saatchi, Diane Pataki and Jean-Daniel Saphores
Los Angeles, CA (July 12, 2011)- There has been an increasing interest in the evolution of urban forests. This research uses historic and digital aerial photography to quantify changes in tree density in Los Angeles, California since the 1920’s. High-resolution geographic information system analysis (4 to 6 time periods) of three regions (San Fernando Valley, Hollywood, Los Angeles Basin) of Los Angeles reveals that there has not always been an increase in tree density with time.


When historic tree density reconstructions were examined for the 15 Los Angeles city council districts from the 1920’s, 1950’s and 2006, most districts in Los Angeles have experienced a significant increase in tree density, however, there has been wide variation in tree densities among city council districts. Trees densities have generally been higher on private land since the 1920’s and currently tree densities on private land are significantly higher than on public land.
Results suggest the evolution of urban forests in Los Angeles mirrors the dynamics of urban forests in desert and grassland cities. It is possible to reconstruct the development of urban forests in sections of cities using historic and contemporary aerial photography. Although there is still space to plant trees on public land, private land owners will need to be heavily involved in order to achieve the goals of Los Angeles’ Million Tree Initiative.
Related Resource:
Urban Ecosystems- A time series of urban forestry in Los Angeles