In the context of climate change, drought is likely to become more frequent and more severe in urban areas. Urban trees are considered to play an important role in fixing carbon, improving air quality, reducing noise and providing other ecosystem services. However, data on the response of urban trees to climate change, particularly to drought, as well as the relationship between their below- and above-ground processes in this context, are still limited, which prevents a comprehensive understanding of the role of urban trees in ameliorating some of the adverse effects of climate change and their ability to cope with it. To investigate whole-plant responses to water shortages, we studied the growth of Tilia cordata
Greenspire, a commonly planted urban tree, including development of its roots and stem diameter, leaf parameters and the harvested biomass. Our results showed that this cultivar was susceptible to drought and had reduced biomass in all three compartments: branch (30.7%), stem (16.7%) and coarse roots (45.2%). The decrease in the root:shoot ratio under drought suggested that more carbon was invested in the above-ground biomass. The development of fine roots and the loss of coarse root biomass showed that T. cordata
Greenspire prioritised the growth of fine roots within the root system. The CityTree
model’s simulation showed that the ability of this cultivar to provide ecosystem services, including cooling and CO2
fixation, was severely reduced. For use in harsh and dry urban environments, we recommend that urban managers take into account the capacity of trees to adapt to drought stress and provide sufficient rooting space, especially vertically, to help trees cope with drought.
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