, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 1015-1030

Potential impacts of emerald ash borer invasion on biogeochemical and water cycling in residential landscapes across a metropolitan region

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Abstract

Trees provide important ecological services in cities, yet the vulnerability of the urban forest to massive tree losses from pest outbreaks could threaten those services, with unknown environmental consequences. The outbreak of emerald ash borer is an imminent threat to the ash population in North America. In the Minneapolis–Saint Paul, Minnesota, metropolitan area, ash trees are present in 50 % of residential landscapes in Ramsey and Anoka Counties. We used a large survey of household activities, a tree inventory, a Household Flux Calculator accounting tool, and a set of annual evapotranspiration measurements, to quantify the current carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus storage in ash trees, the cycling of these elements, and the total evapotranspiration from ash trees in residential areas in the metropolitan region. Ash represented 6 % of the trees in residential areas and the removal of the entire ash population would correspondingly reduce net primary production and carbon sequestration by only a few percent and would have negligible effects on losses of nitrogen and phosphorus from residential landscapes. Similarly, the effects of ash loss on the hydrologic cycle would be minimal and would depend largely on management choices for the ground currently underneath ash tree canopies. Overall, the percentage change in biogeochemical and hydrological fluxes corresponded closely with the percent of the total urban tree population that was represented by ash, suggesting that areas with higher densities of ash would experience correspondingly larger effects. A hypothetical tree replacement scenario with similar broadleaf species was determined to be likely to re-establish the original biogeochemical and hydrological conditions once the replacement trees reach maturity.