Urban ecosystems as laboratories
Urban environments are increasingly important for life on Earth. They are the dominant centers of human population and they exert a strong influence on all living organisms. They are also great places to study biology!
Studying biology in urban environments is not new (some history here), but there are two neat articles in this month's issue of Tree Physiology that use urban environments in unique ways. Both studies move beyond studying 'the impact of human domination on biological systems' and take advantage of the unique conditions that exist to prod some fundamental scientific questions.
- Elizaveta Litvak and colleagues used the combination of a dry air and irrigated soil that can be found in Los Angeles (shown below) to disentangle the sensitivity of trees to atmospheric and soil conditions. They found that trees with a greater risk of vascular blockage due to dehydration were more sensitive to drier air.
- Stephanie Searle and colleagues used the differences in microclimate between urban and rural New York (including New York City, shown above) to study how climate affects tree growth. They found that the mild fluctuations in temperature between day and night in the city allowed tree seedlings to be healthier and grow more than their counterparts in the rural areas.
Very cool stuff!