Modeling lives saved from extreme heat by urban tree cover
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Urban tree cover contributes to human well-being through a variety of ecosystem services. In this study, we focus on the role that trees can play in reducing temperature during warm seasons and associated impacts on human health and well-being. We introduce a method for quantifying and valuing changes in premature mortality from extreme heat due to the changes in urban tree cover and apply this method to Baltimore City, Maryland. The model i-Tree Cool Air uses a water and energy balance to estimate hourly changes in air temperature due to alternative scenarios of tree cover applied across 653 Census Block Groups. The changes in temperature are applied to existing temperature–mortality models to estimate changes in health outcomes and associated values. Existing tree cover in Baltimore is estimated to reduce annual mortality by 543 deaths as compared to a 0% tree cover scenario. Increasing the area of current tree cover by 10% of each Census Block Group reduced baseline annual mortality by 83 to 247 deaths (valued at $0.68 –2.0 billion applying Value of Statistical Life estimates). Over half of the reduced mortality is from the over 65 year age group, who are among the most vulnerable to extreme heat. Reductions in air temperature due to increased tree cover were greatest in downtown Baltimore where tree cover is relatively low and impervious cover is relatively high. However, the greatest reductions in mortality occurred in the outskirts of Baltimore where a greater number of people who are over 65 years in age reside. Quantifying and valuing the health benefits of changes in air temperatures due to increased tree cover can inform climate adaptation and mitigation plans by decision makers. Developing adaptation strategies to effectively address these issues will become increasingly important in the future under changing climates and an aging population.
KeywordsEcosystem services; Heat-related mortality; Vulnerability; Health impacts; Economic valuation; Human well-being; Urban heat island; Modeling temperature changes; i-Tree
Sinha, Paramita; Coville, Robert C.; Hirabayashi, Satoshi; Lim, Brian; Endreny, Theodore A.; Nowak, David J. 2021. Modeling lives saved from extreme heat by urban tree cover. Ecological Modelling. 449(1): 109553. 19 p. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2021.109553.