White oak and red maple tree ring analysis reveals enhanced productivity in urban forest patches
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Forest Ecology and Management
Many aspects of the urban environment have the potential to affect tree growth and physiology in forest patches, including higher temperatures, elevated CO2 concentrations, and modified soil biogeochemistry from increased nutrient and heavy metal inputs. However, these changes in tree growth are likely to vary by species and across urban areas, reflecting the local environmental conditions associated with the idiosyncratic trajectory of development in a city. Here, we examine growth rates of two dominant native tree species (white oak (Quercus alba L.) and red maple (Acer rubrum L.)) across urban and reference forest sites of three major cities in the eastern United States (New York, NY (NYC); Philadelphia, PA; and Baltimore, MD). We also characterized soil physical and chemical properties around each tree and monitored air temperature over three growing seasons at each site. Throughout the growing season, the urban sites had consistently warmer daytime and nighttime temperatures than reference sites. Urban forest patch soils also had elevated calcium, magnesium, and heavy metal concentrations compared to reference forest soils. Urban vs. reference tree growth rates varied by species, by city, and over time. Despite differences in the two native species’ ecophysiology, both grew more rapidly in the urban environment than at nearby reference sites, particularly in recent decades. Over the entire 145-year tree ring record analyzed, white oak basal area increment was significantly higher in urban trees compared to reference trees. Changes in the relative production of white oak earlywood and latewood between site types in each city and over time may relate to precipitation patterns. Perhaps due to their ability to persist in a wide variety of environmental conditions, mature trees of both species appear to be acclimating to urban forest patch conditions of the eastern U.S. and in some cases are experiencing enhanced growth rates compared to trees in nearby reference forests. An understanding of past and present growth rates of trees in urban forest patches can provide insight into future ecosystem functioning of these urban green spaces as well as that of more rural ecosystems experiencing environmental change factors similar to those associated with urbanization.
KeywordsAcer rubrum Basal area increment Earlywood Latewood Quercus alba Tree rings Increment core analysis Urban soils
Sonti, Nancy F.; Hallett, Richard A.; Griffin, Kevin L.; Sullivan, Joe H. 2019. White oak and red maple tree ring analysis reveals enhanced productivity in urban forest patches. Forest Ecology and Management. 453: 117626. 11 p. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foreco.2019.117626.