Academic journal article Journal of Multidisciplinary Research

Apportioning St. Thomas University Urban and Green Area Using Satellite Imaging

Academic journal article Journal of Multidisciplinary Research

Apportioning St. Thomas University Urban and Green Area Using Satellite Imaging

Article excerpt


There are multiple personal and social benefits to greenery in urban areas. When such greenery includes a forest climax community, benefits and responsibilities can also increase. St. Thomas University (STU), an urban 120-acre campus in Miami, Florida, houses one of the few remaining Dade County Slash Pine forests in this metropolitan area. A quantitative assessment of the greenery on campus, including its ratio-to-built area can aid the delicate planning of campus expansion. Phase I of this study measured the 2-Dimensional green area and Phase II measured the 3-Dimensional green area on STU. Adding these two measurements and contrasting it to the built area on campus yields an almost 10:1 ratio of greenery versus built area. Considering that STU is within a major residential, commercial, and industrial zone of Miami-Dade County, and considering a heavily-trafficked highway and a commercial airport flank the campus, it behooves all those associated with STU to preserve and promote this very high green-to-grey ratio.

Keywords: apportioning, carbon sink, climax community, highland, Pinus elliottii, triangulation, urban greenery


Greenery in urban areas has multiple benefits, such as, carbon sink (Siry, 2006), pollution filter (Beckett, Free-Smith, & Taylor, 1998), flood control (Xiao & McPherson, 2002), cooling (Simpson, 1998), noise and wind reduction (Bolund &Hunhammar, 1999), and educational and aesthetic value (Tyrväinen, Pauleit, Seeland, & de Vries, 2005). Overall, one may call these the personal and social benefits of urban greenery, and its constant threat is urban encroachment (grey area) (Merse, Boone, & Buckley, 2008). Therefore, preserving urban greenery is a desired goal of society. Urban greenery exists in the form of public land (parks, recreational areas, nature preserves) or private land (universities, private parks, office complexes, and other commercial or residential properties). Urban greenery that includes a climax forest community is increasingly rare (Kämpf Binelli, Gholz, &Duryea, 2001).

Not all urban greenery has the same social and personal value. For example, regarding the abovementioned benefits, an acreage of forest is logically more beneficial than the equivalent acreage of lawn. One main reason for this is simply the much greater overall surface area of greenery in a forest than on a lawn. For purposes of mathematical quantification, the surface area of a forest and free-standing trees may be referred as three-dimensional (3-D), and that of a lawn, two-dimensional (2-D). Once obtained, these 2-D and 3-D measurements can be combined, and an overall green-to-grey ratio can be estimated for any given urban area. Intuition tells us that, the higher that ratio, the better the quality of life for that community (Florida Urban Forestry Council, 2013).

The average height above sea level for Metropolitan Miami-Dade County, Florida, is about 1.8 m (~ 6 ft) (National Aeronautic and Space Administration, 2012). Topographically and ecologically, the county can be divided generally into lowland and highland, depending on whether the land is above or below the average height above sea level (Allen & Main, 2005). Also, this region of South Florida receives an average of 157.3 cm (~ 62 in) of rain per year (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, 2012). Due to the relatively high amount of precipitation in Miami-Dade County, a highland topography tends to flood much less - or not at all - contrasted to a lowland. The predominant native tree of the County highland is the South Florida slash pine (Pinus elliottii), whose roots tolerate little standing ground water (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2013). Hence, wherever P. elliottii grows, there is good assurance that land seldom, if ever, floods. In Miami-Dade County, a P. elliottii forest is the highland climax community (Smithsonian Marine Station, 2012).

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