Plant and Soil

, Volume 382, Issue 1–2, pp 61–74 | Cite as

Effects of two contrasting canopy manipulations on growth and water use of London plane (Platanus x acerifolia) trees

  • Neil A. Hipps
  • Michael J. Davies
  • Joel M. Dunn
  • Howard Griffiths
  • Christopher J. AtkinsonEmail author
Regular Article



Two contrasting canopy manipulations were compared to unpruned controls on London plane trees, to determine the effects on canopy regrowth, soil and leaf water relations.


‘Canopy reduction’, was achieved by removing the outer 30 % length of all major branches and ‘canopy thinning’, by removing 30 % of lateral branches arising from major branches.


Total canopy leaf areas recovered within two and three years of pruning for the canopy-thinned and reduced trees respectively. Canopy reduction increased mean leaf size, nitrogen concentration, canopy leaf area density and conserved soil moisture for up to 3 years, whereas canopy thinning had no effects. Another experiment compared more severe canopy reduction to unpruned trees. This produced a similar growth response to the previous experiment, but soil moisture was conserved nearer to the trunk. Analysis of 13C and 18O signals along with leaf water relations and soil moisture data suggested that lower boundary layer conductance within the canopy-reduced trees restricted tree water use, whereas for the canopy-thinned trees the opposite occurred.


Only canopy reduction conserved soil moisture and this was due to a combination of reduced total canopy leaf area and structural changes in canopy architecture.


Leaf area Pruning Soil moisture Stable isotopes Subsidence 



This work was funded via the Department of Environment, and Food and Agriculture, Horticulture LINK 212 with contributions from Department of Communities and Government, the Highways Agency, the Association of British Insurers, the East Malling Trust and Delta-T Devices Ltd. We thank the Building Research Establishment, Delta-T Devices Ltd, the Arboricultural Association, and Drs Giles Biddle and Mike Fordham for their technical support and contributions. We thank Dr Stephen Young for his extensive advice and the statistical analyses of the soil moisture deficit data.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Neil A. Hipps
    • 1
  • Michael J. Davies
    • 1
  • Joel M. Dunn
    • 1
    • 2
  • Howard Griffiths
    • 2
  • Christopher J. Atkinson
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.East Malling ResearchEast MallingUK
  2. 2.Department of Plant SciencesUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  3. 3.Natural Resources InstituteUniversity of GreenwichChatham MaritimeUK

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