Reimaging vacant urban land as green infrastructure: Assessing vacant urban land ecosystem services and planning strategies for the City of Roanoke, Virginia
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A typology of urban vacant land was developed using Roanoke, Virginia, as the study area. Because of its industrial past, topography and climate, Roanoke provides a range of vacant land types typical of those in many areas of the Mid-Atlantic, Eastern and Midwestern United States. A comprehensive literature review, field measurements and observations analysis and aerial photo interpretation and ground-truthing methods were utilized to identify and catalog vacant parcels of land and the results were mapped using i-Tree Canopy to identify the following types of urban vacant land: post-industrial (3.34 km�[BULLET]), derelict (4.01 km�[BULLET]), unattended with vegetation (17.3 km�[BULLET]), natural (2.78 km�[BULLET]), and transportation-related (5.01 km�[BULLET]). Unattended with vegetation sites are important resources as the health biodiversity found in natural sites benefits urban populations and they represent the highest plantable space. The redesign of post-industrial sites builds a city's image and transportation-related sites can contribute a green infrastructure network of open spaces. This typological study has significant implications for policy development, and for planners and designers seeking the best use for vacant urban land. The analysis of Roanoke's urban forest revealed around 210,000 trees on vacant land, a tree cover of 30.6%. These trees store about 107,000 tons of carbon (worth $7.65 million) and remove about 2,300 tons of carbon ($164,000), and about 91 tons of air pollution ($916,000) every year, which is high relative to other land uses. Trees on vacant land are estimated to reduce annual residential energy costs by $211,000 for the city's 97,000 residents and their structural value is estimated at $169 million. The methodology applied to assess ecosystem services in this study can also be used to assess ecosystem services of vacant land in other urban contexts and improve urban forest policies, planning, and the management of vacant land. The study findings support the inclusion of trees on vacant land providing a new vision of vacant urban land as a valuable ecological resource by demonstrating how green infrastructure can be used to enhance ecosystem health and promote a better quality of life for city residents.
- Doctoral Dissertations