Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Food Studies


Rick Welsh


Agroecology;Agroforestry;black walnut;Food Forest;Syracuse


Food access and climate change are two of the greatest challenges facing an increasingly urbanized society. Within cities, trees play a critical role for people and the planet, providing solutions to food insecurity and closing the metabolic rift. Trees provide food for human and non-human communities, shelter for biodiversity, and microclimate regulation. In this context, the health of trees is paramount because of the connection between species health and the capacity to provide services. Eastern black walnut (BW) trees (Juglans nigra) are an important and underutilized native nut tree in the Northeastern US. The kernel has the highest protein content of northeastern nut species, its wood is one of the most economically valuable, there are a number of non-timber products that can be created using various parts of the tree, and BW appears to be resilient to climate impacts in the northeast. BW contributes to provisioning services in the urban environment by producing nuts, and contributes to regulating services, such as runoff management in riparian zones and air filtration. BW is perceived, however, in multiple competing ways by actors like city management and public groups representing different attitudes towards BW present in the city. While the city can assess for risk and establish health rankings of individual trees, there is a limit to the health interventions they can provide caused by the neighborhood attitudes towards these trees, city resources, and the current state of forestry research and practice which they follow. At the intersection of urban food provisioning, urban ecological management, and justice movements, agroecology is poised to provide a framework for achieving the goals of city management and to expand the conversation to include food sovereignty. Fundamentally the question becomes one of health; the health of the urban environment, its interconnectedness with the health of all its inhabitants (human and more-than), and how to manage for increased health of both. This work seeks to begin answering these questions by examining the interrelatedness of Black Walnut tree health and socioeconomic wellbeing in Syracuse, NY. By systematically assessing BW tree health; comparing tree distribution to socioeconomic distribution; connecting tree health to equity; we reveal a story about the Syracuse urban canopy as a tool to mitigating food insecurity and climate change through the lens of equity and social justice.


Open Access



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