New Orleans Tree Inventory
In 2020, an extensive study of the trees in the public right of way was conducted in New Orleans, LA (Farley et al., 2020). They counted more than 100,000 trees! This doesn't include trees in private spaces. There were 355 different varieties of trees represented, including many that are fruit-bearing. I thought it would be interesting to explore how the trees are distributed across the 72 neighborhoods in New Orleans. We can visualize tree populations on public land by joining the city's tree data with neighborhood boundaries from Zillow (Neighborhoods, US, 2017, Zillow, SEGS - Catalog, 2021).
In raw numbers, Audubon takes it away with almost 6,500 trees. Between the size and the name of the neighborhood, this seems apt. Count only tells part of the story, though. Below is the same map, but with trees per acre represented. With four to six, Audubon is in the middle range for New Orleans. The only neighborhood with zero trees on public right-of-way is Desire, but several others have so few that they can't be counted per acre. Most of these areas are wetlands.
Why is it so important to know the locations and types of trees in New Orleans? Like other cities around the world, New Orleans experiences higher temperatures than the surrounding areas. This phenomenon is known as the Heat Island Effect and is caused by a variety of factors. According to the E.P.A. (Learn About Heat Islands | US EPA, 2022), building density/materials, roadway materials, anthropogenic activities (traffic, industry, air conditioning), and lack of green spaces contribute to an average one-to-seven-degree excess heat in urban areas. New Orleans is almost 9 degrees hotter than surrounding areas. This makes it the worst heat island in the U.S. (Sustaining Our Urban Landscaping (SOUL), 2022).
The city of New Orleans published a report on its 2020 Tree Preservation Study (you can read it here Microsoft Word - Tree Study Draft_20.10.06.docx (nola.gov)) (Farley et al., 2020) to present findings and recommendations regarding the city's tree canopy. Included were the stated goals for the project. From the report, "
Promote and expand New Orleans’ urban forest to reach 50% tree canopy by 2030.
Promote tree preservation and planting on private property.
Establish criteria for “heritage trees” to inform future development; identify heritage trees as those trees of native species, significant caliper (top 20%), located along public corridors. Use additional criteria as appropriate. Consider additional protections for qualifying trees and appropriate incentives for their retention.
Explore regulatory options for the retention, replacement, and enhancement of the landscaping and live oak canopies characteristic of New Orleans, providing for complete protection of trees and landscaping during private and public construction, and power line maintenance and construction work by public utilities.
Promote a diversity of tree planting species and speeds of growth. "
Increasing the tree canopy to 50% is an ambitious and worthy goal. As of 2021, New Orleans had less than 20% total tree cover, not taking into account any loss due to Hurricane Ida. SOUL, a New Orleans organization working to increase the city's tree canopy, published its New Orleans Reforestation Plan in December 2022 (you can read it here Final-Reforestation-Plan-1.pdf (soulnola.org)). The report is thorough in its description of how much coverage each neighborhood has as well as the challenges to attain the goals set out for their attempts to increase the canopy (Sustaining Our Urban Landscaping (SOUL), 2022).
Here is an updating map of the trees they plant.
Mapping Reforestation (soulnola.org)
Farley, J., Delery, H., Cramer, P., & Perry, B. (2020). Tree Preservation Study: City of New Orleans. In nola.gov. City Planning Commission. https://www.nola.gov/nola/media/City-Planning/Applications/Tree-Preservation-Study-Final.pdf
Learn About Heat Islands | US EPA. (2022, September 2). US EPA. https://www.epa.gov/heatislands/learn-about-heat-islands
Neighborhoods, US, 2017, Zillow, SEGS - Catalog. (2021, July 3). https://catalog.data.gov/dataset/neighborhoods-us-2017-zillow-segs
Sustaining Our Urban Landscaping (SOUL). (2022). New Orleans Reforestation Plan. In soulnola.org. https://soulnola.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/Final-Reforestation-Plan-1.pdf