Cooling with Plants: Evaluating Ecosystem Services in Boston, MA

Project Partner: City of Boston, Fall 2020

Project Summary: Urban greenspace mitigates extreme temperatures through shading and evaporative cooling; however, quantifying these ecosystem services in cities often relies on simple remote sensing measurements or tree inventories. Ian used an interdisciplinary framework combining a novel heat flux model that quantified the supply of cooling from vegetation with a vulnerability index capturing the residential demand for cooling. He utilized the framework to evaluate the impact of the planned redevelopment of Melnea Cass Boulevard on the balance of ecosystem service supply and demand. In forecasting changes in tree cover alongside variation in neighbourhood demand for ecosystem services, Ian identified regions with a mismatch in supply and demand for cooling where small-scale design changes would have a large impact on the provision of vegetative cooling. Ian presented his result to numerous city agencies and shared his findings through a written report.

Project Deliverables: Presentation/report on the supply/demand framework, highlighting findings from the Melnea Cass pilot study (link).


A map of Boston, MA, showing the geographic distribution of vegetative cooling power.
Cooling power of vegetation (latent heat flux) in Boston, MA. Bluer areas indicate stronger cooling effect of vegetation, including street trees.