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Influence of seasonality and vegetation type on suburban microclimates


Urbanization is responsible for some of the fastest rates of land-use change around the world, with important consequences for local, regional, and global climate. Vegetation, which represents a significant proportion of many urban and suburban landscapes, can modify climate by altering local exchanges of heat, water vapor, and CO2. To determine how distinct urban forest communities vary in their microclimate effects over time, we measured stand-level leaf area index, soil temperature, infrared surface temperature, and soil water content over a complete growing season at 29 sites representing the five most common vegetation types in a suburban neighborhood of Minneapolis–Saint Paul, Minnesota. We found that seasonal patterns of soil and surface temperatures were controlled more by differences in stand-level leaf area index and tree cover than by plant functional type. Across the growing season, sites with high leaf area index had soil temperatures that were 7°C lower and surface temperatures that were 6°C lower than sites with low leaf area index. Site differences in mid-season soil temperature and turfgrass ground cover were best explained by leaf area index, whereas differences in mid-season surface temperature were best explained by percent tree cover. The significant cooling effects of urban tree canopies on soil temperature imply that seasonal changes in leaf area index may also modulate CO2 efflux from urban soils, a highly temperature-dependent process, and that this should be considered in calculations of total CO2 efflux for urban carbon budgets. Field-based estimates of percent tree cover were found to better predict mid-season leaf area index than satellite-derived estimates and consequently offer an approach to scale up urban biophysical properties.

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