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Arboriculture & Urban Forestry Online
Volume 36, Issue 5 — September 2010

Tree Root Ecology in the Urban Environment and Implications for a Sustainable Rhizosphere    (View PDF)

Susan D. Day, P. Eric Wiseman, Sarah B. Dickinson, and J. Roger Harris

Abstract: This review examines current understandings of how the belowground characteristics of urban settings affect tree roots as well as how tree roots contribute to biogeochemical processes in this belowground environment. Soil characteristics common to the urban environment include soil compaction and other physical impediments to root exploration, elevated pH, altered temperature and moisture patterns, and the presence of contaminants. These conditions may alter the growth dynamics, morphology, and physiology of roots. At the same time, roots have a profound effect on the soil environment, with trees directing 40%73% of assimilated carbon below ground. Urban rhizosphere ecology is a topic of renewed interest for research not only because of its critical role in the urban ecosystem, but also because of its role in global environmental issues. In addition to its obvious contribution to aboveground growth, root exploration of the soil environment can influence environmental sustainability through root contributions to soil structure and drainage. Root influence is further mediated by the intimate role of roots in soil biological activity and thus carbon storage and nutrient cycling. Current advances and implications for emerging research are discussed.

Keywords: Heavy Metals; Road Salt; Root Periodicity; Soil Compaction; Soil Structure; Urban Hydrology; Urban Infrastructure

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