How do people perceive urban trees? Assessing likes and dislikes in relation to the trees of a city

Abstract

Cities are systems that include natural and human-created components. When a city grows without proper planning, it tends to have low environmental quality. If improving environmental quality is intended, people’s opinion should be taken into account for a better acceptance of urban management decisions. In this study, we assessed people’s perception of trees by conducting a survey with a controlled sample of citizens from the city of Morelia (west-central Mexico). Citizens liked both native and exotic tree species and rejected mainly exotic ones. Preference for trees were related to tree attributes; such as size. Trees that dropped leaves or tended to fall were not liked. The most-mentioned tree-related benefits were oxygen supply and shade; the most mentioned tree-related damages were accidents and infrastructure damage. The majority of respondents preferred trees near houses to increase tree density. Also, most respondents preferred trees in green areas as well as close to their houses, as they consider that trees provide oxygen. The majority of the respondents thought more trees were needed in the city. In general, our results show that although people perceive that trees in urban areas can cause damages, they often show more interest for the benefits related to trees and consider there should be more trees in cities. We strongly suggest the development of studies that broaden our knowledge of citizen preferences in relation to urban vegetation, and that further policy making takes their perception into account when considering creating new urban green areas, regardless of their type or size.

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Acknowledgments

We are grateful to A. Ken Oyama Nakagawa, Antonio Vieyra Medrano, and two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments. We also thank the kindergartens and people who participated in this study, who preferred to remain anonymous, and acknowledge the participation of Hugo Camacho and Tania Arroyo in data collection. Also, we want to thank Dr. Amy Deacon for language corrections and comments on the manuscript. Finally, we greatly thank Lupita Cervantes and Oracio Camacho for partially funding the project.

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Correspondence to Ian MacGregor-Fors.

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Camacho-Cervantes, M., Schondube, J.E., Castillo, A. et al. How do people perceive urban trees? Assessing likes and dislikes in relation to the trees of a city. Urban Ecosyst 17, 761–773 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11252-014-0343-6

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Keywords

  • Social perception
  • Urban planning
  • Citizens benefits
  • Morelia
  • México