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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 1, 2023
  2. Predicted rapid increases in urbanization in the face of accelerating biodiversity loss underscores the need for urban development that promotes, rather than displaces, native plants and animals. One approach for increasing urban biodiversity is through the development of “green infrastructure”. Although research has explored urban-rural gradients and the overall value of urban green infrastructure, few studies have investigated the habitat value for wildlife of different types of urban greenspace. Here, we use a well-established metric in ecology, giving up-densities (GUDs), to compare foraging costs for a common urban wildlife species, the eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis), among three green infrastructure categories: municipal parks, college campuses, and residential yards. We found that GUDs for gray squirrels did not differ significantly among location categories after controlling for proximity to roads, but proximity to roads was associated with significantly higher GUDs in all locations. In an explicit test, we also found that both proximity to roads and traffic volume were associated with higher GUDs. We also found that maximum distance from roads was significantly higher for campuses and parks than for residential yards, indicating a greater proportion of the area of campuses and parks is “away from roads” compared to residential yards. Ourmore »results indicate that vehicle traffic may contribute significantly to an “urban landscape of fear” for gray squirrels and suggest that campus and park configurations that reduce road effects could improve habitat quality for squirrels and possibly other animals.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 23, 2023
  3. Abstract
    This data was primarily collected to assess forest quality within the Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) Metropolitan Area and to link above-ground and below-ground properties as part of the goals of the MSP-LTER Urban Tree Canopy research group. Here, we sampled vegetation on 40 circular plots with a 12.5 m radius distributed across 13 parks, registering the date of sampling, park and management agency names, the plot number, and geolocation (latitude, longitude, and elevation). The plots were randomly selected based on GEDI (Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation instrument) 2021 footprints in the MSP Metropolitan Area along accessible forested areas inside public parks, where the management agency allowed sampling. In each plot, we measured forest structure and diversity metrics, species names and abundance, DBH, height, distance from the plot center, the height where each individual canopy starts, and the relative position, exposure, and density of each canopy. We also measured understory plant structure and diversity in 4 subplots per plot, totaling 160 subplots. In these subplots, we surveyed all individual plants with heights over 20 cm, recording species names and abundance, plant basal diameter, plant height, and the total number of branches. Furthermore, we assessed the canopy openness above each subplot by calculatingMore>>
  4. Urban trees play an important role in helping cities adapt to climate change, but also are vulnerable to changes in climate themselves. We developed an approach for assessing vulnerability of urban tree species and cultivars commonly planted in cities in the United States Upper Midwest to current and projected climate change through the end of the 21st century. One hundred seventy-eight tree species were evaluated for their adaptive capacity to a suite of current and future-projected climate and urban stressors using a weighted scoring system based on an extensive literature review. These scores were then evaluated and adjusted by leading experts in arboriculture in the region. Each species or cultivar’s USDA Hardiness Zone and American Horticultural Society Heat Zone tolerance was compared to current and future heat and hardiness zones for 14 municipalities across Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota using statistically downscaled climate data. Species adaptive capacity and zone tolerance was combined to assign each species one of five vulnerability categories for each location. We determined the number of species and trees in each category based on the most recent municipal street tree data for each location. Under a scenario of less climate change (RCP 4.5), fewer than 2% of treesmore »in each municipality were considered highly vulnerable across all 14 municipalities. Under a scenario of greater change (RCP 8.5), upward of 25% of trees were considered highly vulnerable in some locations. However, the number of vulnerable trees varied greatly by location, primarily because of differences in projected summer high temperatures rather than differences in species composition. Urban foresters can use this information as a complement to other more traditional considerations used when selecting trees for planting.« less