Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 25, Issue 36, pp 36194–36206 | Cite as

The influence of urban stress factors on responses of ground cover vegetation

  • Arideep Mukherjee
  • Madhoolika AgrawalEmail author
Research Article


A comprehensive study was conducted to evaluate the effects of ambient air pollution, land use, and soil properties on ground cover vegetation in the urban area of Varanasi city, situated in the Indo Gangetic Plain of India. Twelve leaf functional traits were assessed on eight most dominant herbaceous species belonging to four angiospermic families in three different land uses with varying air pollution loads and soil properties. Particulate matter (PM10 and TSP), gaseous pollutants (SO2, NO2, and O3), land uses (built-up area, shrub, and grass cover), and soil properties showed significant variability among the land uses. Air pollution was identified as the major stress factor which influenced leaf functional traits of ground cover vegetation followed by soil properties and land uses. Among the plants, Croton sparsiflorus was found to be the most responsive plants to all the factors. Plants responded differently under varying environmental factors as Euphorbia hirta was maximally influenced by air pollution, whereas the effect of land use was maximum in C. sparsiflorus. Influence of soil properties was highest in Digitaria ciliaris and Scoparia dulcis. All the environmental factors in combination maximally influenced non-enzymatic antioxidants (ascorbic acid and polyphenolics) followed by photosynthetic pigments among the different leaf functional traits. Among the environmental factors, NO2 and PM were identified as the most influencing factors regulating leaf functional traits followed by K level in soil and shrub cover. It can be concluded that responses of different leaf functional traits of ground cover vegetation varied with different environmental factors and responses were mostly species specific.


Ground cover vegetation Leaf functional traits Urban Land uses Air pollution Soil 



We thank the head of Department of Botany, Center of Advanced Study (CAS), Banaras Hindu University, and the coordinators of CAS and Department of Science and Technology-Fund for Improvement of Science & Technology Infrastructure in Higher Educational Institutions (DST-FIST) and DST-PURSE (Promotion of University Research and Scientific Excellence) for providing necessary laboratory and central instrumental facilities for the research work. This work was also supported by Department of Science and Technology (DST), India, in the form of an Inspire fellowship (IF120768) to Arideep Mukherjee. We are also highly thankful to the reviewers for their guidance and constructive suggestions.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11356_2018_3437_MOESM1_ESM.docx (145 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 145 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Air Pollution and Global Climate Change, Department of Botany, Institute of ScienceBanaras Hindu UniversityVaranasiIndia

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