Structural Characteristics of Tree Cover and the Association with Cardiovascular and Respiratory Health in Tampa, FL

  • Viniece Jennings
  • Richard Schulterbrandt GraggIIIEmail author
  • C. Perry Brown
  • Dudley Hartel
  • Eric Kuehler
  • Alex Sinykin
  • Elijah Johnson
  • Michelle Kondo


Urban tree cover can provide several ecological and public health benefits. Secondary datasets for Tampa, FL, including sociodemographic variables (e.g., race/ethnicity), health data, and interpolated values for features of tree cover (e.g., percent canopy and leaf area index) were analyzed using correlation and regression. Percent canopy cover and leaf area index were inversely correlated to respiratory and cardiovascular outcomes, yet only leaf area index displayed a significant association with respiratory conditions in the logistic regression model. Percent racial/ethnic minority residents at the block group level was significantly negatively correlated with median income and tree density. Leaf area index was also significantly lower in block groups with more African-American residents. The percentage of African Americans (p = 0.101) and Hispanics (p < 0.001) were positively associated with respiratory outcomes while population density (p < 0.001), percent canopy (p < 0.01), and leaf area index (p < 0.01) were negatively associated. In multivariate models, higher tree density, leaf area index, and median income were significantly negatively associated with respiratory cases. Block groups with a higher proportion of African Americans had a higher odds of displaying respiratory admissions above the median rate. Tree density and median income were also negatively associated with cardiovascular cases. Home ownership and tree condition were significantly positively associated with cardiovascular cases.


Green space Health Urban Nature 



The authors would like to acknowledge the City of Tampa who funded the study to collect land cover data as well as the vegetation inventory and analysis. Additional thanks are extended to Wayne Zipperer, Shawn Landry, Francisco Escobedo, Melissa Friedman, Michael Andreu, Michael Bowker, Cassandra Johnson Gaither, Stan Zarnoch, D. Wafula, and Seock-Ho Kim, and Francis Annor for their guidance and feedback.


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© The New York Academy of Medicine 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Southern Research StationUSDA Forest ServiceAthensUSA
  2. 2.School of the EnvironmentFlorida Agricultural and Mechanical UniversityTallahasseeUSA
  3. 3.Institute of Public HealthFlorida Agricultural and Mechanical UniversityTallahasseeUSA
  4. 4.Department of GeographyUniversity of North Carolina-GreensboroGreensboroUSA
  5. 5.Northern Research StationUSDA Forest ServicePhiladelphiaUSA

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