Residential development is one of the most intensive and widespread land uses in the United States, with substantial environmental impacts, including changes in forest cover. However, the relationships between forest cover and residential development are complex. Contemporary forest cover reflects multiple factors, including housing density, time since development, historical land cover, and land management since development. We investigated how forest cover varies with housing density, housing age, and household income over a range of development intensities, in six ecoregions within New York State, Wisconsin, and Colorado. We find areas with residential development do retain important forest resources: across landscapes they are typically more forested than areas that remain undeveloped. However, forest cover consistently had a negative, inverse relationship with housing density, across study areas. Relationships between forest cover and housing age and household income were less common and often restricted to only portions of a given region, according to geographically weighted regression analyses. A better understanding of how forest cover varies with residential development, outside of the typically studied urban areas, will be essential to maintaining ecosystem function and services in residential landscapes.
Read the article in Journal of Environmental Management.