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Arboriculture & Urban Forestry Online
Volume 49, Issue 6 — November 2023

London Plane Bark Exfoliation and Tree-Ring Growth in Urban Environments

Jan Esper, Paolo Cherubini, David Kaltenbach, and Ulf Büntgen

Abstract: Background: Bark exfoliation is a common feature of London planes (Platanus × acerifolia) that reportedly increases during periods of drought-induced stem shrinkage. Here, we explore the spatial patterns and potential drivers of plane bark exfoliation in Mainz, a central European city of 220,000 inhabitants, following the exceptional summer drought of 2018. Methods: We estimate the degree of bark exfoliation of 349 urban plane trees across the city and use stem microcores to analyze their tree-ring widths from 2006 to 2019. Further to impervious cover, settlement structure and vegetation cover in the vicinity of each tree, we investigate the relationships between bark exfoliation and tree, site, and climate factors. Results: Results indicate that plane bark exfoliation correlates significantly with tree size and inner bark width (both p < 0.001) but is independent of impervious cover and local site conditions. Similarly, stem growth does not change within the city underlining the resilience of London planes to cope with highly diverse urban site conditions. Plane tree-ring widths were only weakly associated with exfoliation estimates (p < 0.05) but strongly controlled by cold season temperatures (p < 0.001). Conclusions: As tree growth was also not affected by summer drought, potential detrimental effects by limited infiltration, increased runoff and altered evaporation are of less concern for the plane trees in Mainz. Projected winter warming is likely to enhance urban plane growth in upcoming decades.

Keywords: Dendrochronology; Mainz, Germany; Platanus × acerifolia; Urban Warming

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