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Arboriculture & Urban Forestry Online
Volume 47, Issue 5 — September 2021

Is the Radial Growth of Irrigated Urban Trees More Strongly Correlated to Light and Temperature than Water?

Kevin L. Griffin, PhD, Thomas G. Harris, Sarah Bruner, MA, Patrick McKenzie, MA, and Jeremy Hise, BA

Abstract: Background: Real-time monitoring of tree growth can provide novel information about trees in urban/suburban areas and the myriad ecosystem services they provide. By monitoring irrigated specimen trees, we tested the hypothesis that in trees with sufficient water, growth is governed by environmental factors regulating energy gain rather than by factors related to water use. Methods: Internet-enabled, high-resolution dendrometers were installed on 3 trees in Southampton, NY, USA. The instruments, along with a weather station, streamed data to a project web page that was updated once an hour. Growing periods were determined using a Hidden Markov Model based on a zero-growth model. Linear models and conditional inference trees correlated environmental variables to growth magnitude and rate of growth. Results: Growth was governed by the interacting environmental variables of air temperature, soil moisture, vapor pressure deficit (VPD), and took place primarily at night. Radial growth of spruce began April 14 after the accumulation of 69.7 C growing degree days and ended September 7. Cedar growth began later (April 26) after the accumulation of 160.6 C and ended later (November 3). During the observation period, these 3 modest suburban trees sequestered 115.1 kg of CO2. Conclusions: Though irrigated, residential tree growth in our experiment was affected by environmental factors relating to both water use and energy gain through photosynthesis. Linking tree growth to fluctuations in environmental conditions facilitates the development of a predictive understanding useful for ecosystem management and growth forecasting across future altering climates.

Keywords: Carbon Sequestration; Climate; Cryptomeria japonica; Picea glauca; Tree Growth.

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