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25 Apr 2012: Urban Heat Effect Drives
Faster Tree Growth, Study Says

In a new study, researchers say native red oak seedlings planted in New York City grew far faster than in cooler rural settings. After planting seedlings in two city locations, including Central Park, and in separate locations in the Hudson River Valley and the foothills of the Catskill Mountains, researchers from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory found that the city trees produced eight times more biomass than those planted in the country. According to their study, published in the journal Tree Physiology, the city trees were exposed to maximum daily temperatures 4 degrees F warmer than the country trees, and minimum averages more than 8 degrees F warmer, driven largely by the well-known “urban heat island” effect. The warm city nights, in particular, allowed the seedlings to perform more of the chemical reactions needed for photosynthesis. The seedlings were planted in the spring and, after caring for all the trees with fertilizer and weekly watering, biomass was measured the following autumn. “Some things about the city are bad for trees,” said Stephanie Y. Searle, lead author of the study. “This shows there are at least certain attributes that are beneficial.” Researchers say the findings could have implications for the future makeup of forests as the global climate warms. In a separate study, researchers at the University of Granada found that warming conditions caused plant species at higher elevations to migrate 2.7 meters upward across 17 European mountain ranges between 2001 and 2008.


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