Chlorophyll fluorescence parameters, leaf traits and foliar chemistry of white oak and red maple trees in urban forest patches.


Sonti NF(1), Hallett RA(2), Griffin KL(3), Trammell TLE(4), Sullivan JH(5).
Author information:
(1)USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station, 5523 Research Park Drive, Suite 350, Baltimore, MD 21228, USA.
(2)USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station, 431 Walter Reed Road, Bayside, NY 11359, USA.
(3)Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, Palisades, NY 10964, USA.
(4)Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19716, USA.
(5)Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA.


The provisioning of critical ecosystem services to cities of the eastern USA depends on the health and physiological function of trees in urban areas. Although we know that the urban environment may be stressful for trees planted in highly developed areas, it is not clear that trees in urban forest patches experience the same stressful environmental impacts. In this study, we examine chlorophyll fluorescence parameters, leaf traits, foliar nutrients and stable isotope signatures of urban forest patch trees compared with trees growing at reference forest sites, in order to characterize physiological response of these native tree species to the urban environment of three major cities arranged along a latitudinal gradient (New York, NY; Philadelphia, PA; Baltimore, MD). Overall, white oaks (Quercus alba L.) show more differences in chlorophyll fluorescence parameters and leaf traits by city and site type (urban vs reference) than red maples (Acer rubrum L.). The exceptions were δ13C and δ15N, which did not vary in white oak foliage but were significantly depleted (δ13C) and enriched (δ15N) in urban red maple foliage. Across all sites, red maples had higher thermal tolerance of photosynthesis (Tcrit) than white oaks, suggesting a greater ability to withstand temperature stress from the urban heat island effect and climate change. However, the highest average values of Tcrit were found in the Baltimore urban white oaks, suggesting that species suitability and response to the urban environment varies across a latitudinal gradient. Stomatal pore index (SPI) showed inter-specific differences, with red maple SPI being higher in urban trees, whereas white oak SPI was lower in urban trees. These results demonstrate that differences in native tree physiology occur between urban and reference forest patches, but they are site- and species-specific. Data on local site characteristics and tree species performance over time remain necessary to gain insight about urban woodland ecosystem function.