Will stressful urban environments change the future of forest tree communities in NE Ohio
As urban areas expand, native forest fragments are becoming surrounded by pavement and cement, exposing them to higher temperatures, elevated CO2, higher light availability and pollution. We rely on urban forests to provide carbon storage, recreation, and pollution mitigation, but urban forests are often overlooked as an important ecological system. Studying the impact of the urban environment on trees is critical to understand how the composition and function of forests will change in the future: if native tree species react differently to the stresses imposed the urban environment, then over time the urban and rural forests may come to host different species or different forest community types. We are investigating whether the forest community structure and physiological stress response of trees differs across urban and rural locations around Cleveland, Ohio, USA. This study is being conducted by graduate student Sharon Danielson for her dissertation thesis, and will reveal how urbanization impacts tree function, growth, and the distribution of different species using a combination of physiological and morphological traits related to water and nutrient use to explore individual responses and community level differences in tree traits. In addition, we are using a greenhouse experiment to understand local variation in water-stress tolerance in seedlings from local urban and rural seed sources. This will provide insight into the trajectory of urban remnant forests and the potential benefits of using native seed source for plantings.
urban ecology, climate change, community composition, physiology