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Between tree lovers and tree haters. Drivers of public perception regarding street trees and its implications on the urban green infrastructure planning

Fernandes, Cláudia Oliveira, da Silva, Isabel Martinho, Teixeira, Catarina Patoilo, Costa, Leonardo
Urban forestry & urban greening 2019 v.37 pp. 97-108
Populus nigra, education, fabrics, green infrastructure, logit analysis, planning, planting, public opinion, street trees, surveys
Street trees can play an important role in the urban green infrastructure (UGI). However, changes in the urban fabric often have perverse effects on the structure, diversity, and performance of street trees, and, consequently, on their perception by the public.This research explores public perception of the current street tree adequacy in a coastal neighborhood of Porto that went through a major densification in its urban fabric during the second half of the 20th century.The research methodology included: i) a survey to evaluate public perception of tree services and disservices, and public perception of the adequacy of street trees in the study area; and ii) two Logit models relating public perception of tree services with the characteristics of respondents and streets.96% of the respondents self-reported as tree lovers. However, more than 30% found the street trees of the study area inadequate to the present urban fabric and 5% have already made a complaint to the municipality.Characteristics of respondents and streets affect respondent’s perceptions. Education plays a key role in the acknowledgment of tree services. Older respondents are more likely to perceive trees as dangerous. Respondents who live on streets dominated by Black Poplar are more likely to dislike trees.Results implications on UGI planning and design advise an adjustment of tree dimensions to street dimensions, an increase in street tree diversity, and an improved street planting design. Results also suggest that an investment in education and information could lead to conflict mitigation.