Improving confidence in tree species selection for challenging urban sites: a role for leaf turgor loss

Research paper by H. Sjöman, A. D. Hirons, N. L. Bassuk

Indexed on: 07 Sep '18Published on: 06 Sep '18Published in: Urban Ecosystems


High species diversity is argued to be the most important requisite for a resilient urban forest. In spite of this, there are many cities in the northern hemisphere that have very limited species diversity within their tree population. Consequently, there is an immense risk to urban canopy cover, if these over-used species succumb to serious pests or pathogens. Recognition of this should motivate the use of less commonly used species. Analysis of plant traits, such as the leaf water potential at turgor loss (ΨP0), can provide useful insights into a species’ capacity to grow in warm and dry urban environments. Therefore, the aim of this study was to evaluate ΨP0 of 45 tree species, the majority of which are rare in urban environments. To help evaluate the potential for using ΨP0 data to support future decision-making, a survey of professionals engaged with establishing trees in urban environments was also used to assess the relationship between the measured ΨP0 and the perceived drought tolerance of selected species. This study demonstrates that ΨP0 gives strong evidence for a species’ capacity to tolerate dry growing conditions and is a trait that varies substantially across species. Furthermore, ΨP0 was shown to closely relate to the experience of professionals involved in establishing trees in urban environments, thus providing evidence of its practical significance. Use of plant traits, such as ΨP0, should, therefore, give those specifying trees confidence to recommend non-traditional species for challenging urban environments.