Article

Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 501-524

First online:

Vegetation composition and structure of woody plant communities along urban interstate corridors in Louisville, KY, U.S.A.

  • Tara L. E. TrammellAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of Louisville Email author 
  • , Margaret M. CarreiroAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of Louisville

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Abstract

Urban forests adjacent to interstate corridors are understudied ecosystems across cities. Despite their small area, these forests may be strategically located to provide large ecosystem services due to their ability to act as a barrier against air pollutants and noise as well as to provide flood control. The woody vegetation composition and structure of forests adjacent to urban interstates is an important determinant of their ability to provide these services. However, these forest communities may be particularly susceptible to the introduction of exotic invasive species via the interstate and the surrounding city that can potentially alter current and future forest composition. The purpose of this study was to investigate the distribution of native and exotic woody vegetation and tree regeneration in forests along three interstate corridors in Louisville, KY, and to determine potential factors (e.g., traffic density) that are correlated with patterns in the woody vegetation community. We found the most important determinants of vegetation composition along these interstate corridors were the distance from the city center and the presence of an exotic invasive shrub, Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii). Compared with forested plots within 10 km of the city center, plots further from the city center had 81% lower stem density of Amur honeysuckle, 96% higher tree seedling regeneration, and 51% greater woody plant species richness. The primarily native species composition of adult trees in forests alongside urban interstates in Louisville and the regeneration of native tree species provide optimism that these forests can maintain native species while experiencing multiple impacts from the interstate as well as from the surrounding city, emphasizing their important potential for maintaining natural forest functions across the urban landscape.

Keywords

Urban interstates Urban forests Amur honeysuckle Lonicera maackii Exotic invasive species Non-metric multidimensional scaling (NMDS) Ecosystem services Forest regeneration