It seems that in the city that never sleeps, even the trees are operating on overdrive.
Cornell University researchers planted red oaks in New York City’s Central Park and in locations further upstate to understand whether the urban environment influences the biology of trees. The results: the oaks in the park grew eight times faster, something they attributed to “the urban heat island effect.”
New York City is notably warmer than surrounding areas - a full 4.6 C at night and 2.6 C during the day. This difference is attributed to the capacity of the high density buildings and large paved areas to absorb solar radiation and hold it more efficiently than a vegetated landscape.
In this environment, the red oaks in Central Park accumulated eight times the bio-mass in the same period as those plated in rural environments – the further from the city, the slower the trees grew. They also found that the urban oaks had ten times the foliage and a much shallower root system. Nitrogen concentration was also 25 percent higher in the city trees and those same trees captured three times the carbon.
Put simply, urban trees’ respiratory systems are far more active, making them greater absorbers of pollutants.
So if you’re looking for a reprieve from the fast moving city next time you’re in New York, perhaps the park isn’t as slow moving as we all thought.