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Title: Urbanization exacerbates climate sensitivity of eastern U nited S tates broadleaf trees

Tree growth is a key mechanism driving carbon sequestration in forest ecosystems. Environmental conditions are important regulators of tree growth that can vary considerably between nearby urban and rural forests. For example, trees growing in cities often experience hotter and drier conditions than their rural counterparts while also being exposed to higher levels of light, pollution, and nutrient inputs. However, the extent to which these intrinsic differences in the growing conditions of trees in urban versus rural forests influence tree growth response to climate is not well known. In this study, we tested for differences in the climate sensitivity of tree growth between urban and rural forests along a latitudinal transect in the eastern United States that included Boston, Massachusetts, New York City, New York, and Baltimore, Maryland. Using dendrochronology analyses of tree cores from 55 white oak trees (Quercus alba), 55 red maple trees (Acer rubrum), and 41 red oak trees (Quercus rubra) we investigated the impacts of heat stress and water stress on the radial growth of individual trees. Across our three‐city study, we found that tree growth was more closely correlated with climate stress in the cooler climate cities of Boston and New York than in Baltimore. Furthermore, heat stress was a significant hindrance to tree growth in higher latitudes while the impacts of water stress appeared to be more evenly distributed across latitudes. We also found that the growth of oak trees, but not red maple trees, in the urban sites of Boston and New York City was more adversely impacted by heat stress than their rural counterparts, but we did not see these urban–rural differences in Maryland. Trees provide a wide range of important ecosystem services and increasing tree canopy cover was typically an important component of urban sustainability strategies. In light of our findings that urbanization can influence how tree growth responds to a warming climate, we suggest that municipalities consider these interactions when developing their tree‐planting palettes and when estimating the capacity of urban forests to contribute to broader sustainability goals in the future.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
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Publisher / Repository:
Wiley Blackwell (John Wiley & Sons)
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Ecological Applications
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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