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Dr. Anderson’s research focuses on the intersections between human activities and biodiversity patterns in urban areas. She uses field and synthesis research methods to investigate how humans intentionally and collaterally modify plant communities in cities, and works to understand how this might influence the ecosystem services and disservices across an urban landscape.
Street trees are a unique feature of urban areas, and the specific trees in an area are the result of a direct overlap between the human decisions and environmental processes governing a particular space. However, not all trees are created equal. Trees of certain species and sizes are better at providing ecosystem services such as water uptake or evapotransporative cooling, while others might contribute to greenhouse gas accumulation or produce allergenic pollen.
My current work looks at how street tree diversity is distributed across the neighborhood landscape of Baltimore, assessing where there might be gaps in the environmental equity of street trees as an urban resource. Furthermore, I am working to understand how the urban environment impacts the survival of street trees, and how planting year, landscape context, and immediate habitat influence whether certain trees survive or fail.
Urban areas are home to more than just people. Cities are important habitats, central to meeting conservation and environmental justice challenges of the 21st century.
Dr. Elsa Anderson talks about vacant lots and urban biodiversity, or how urban areas can provide spaces for many species of plants and animals.