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Characterization of an urban-rural CO2/temperature gradient and associated changes in initial plant productivity during secondary succession

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To examine the impact of climate change on vegetative productivity, we exposed fallow agricultural soil to an in situ temperature and CO2 gradient between urban, suburban and rural areas in 2002. Along the gradient, average daytime CO2 concentration increased by 21% and maximum (daytime) and minimum (nighttime) daily temperatures increased by 1.6 and 3.3°C, respectively in an urban relative to a rural location. Consistent location differences in soil temperature were also ascertained. No other consistent differences in meteorological variables (e.g. wind speed, humidity, PAR, tropospheric ozone) as a function of urbanization were documented. The urban-induced environmental changes that were observed were consistent with most short-term (~50 year) global change scenarios regarding CO2 concentration and air temperature. Productivity, determined as final above-ground biomass, and maximum plant height were positively affected by daytime and soil temperatures as well as enhanced [CO2], increasing 60 and 115% for the suburban and urban sites, respectively, relative to the rural site. While long-term data are needed, these initial results suggest that urban environments may act as a reasonable surrogate for investigating future climatic change in vegetative communities.

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This research was supported by the Biological and Environmental Research Program (BER), U.S. Department of Energy, Interagency Agreement No. DE-AI02–02ER63360 to L.H.Z. and J.A.B.

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Correspondence to L. H. Ziska.

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Ziska, L.H., Bunce, J.A. & Goins, E.W. Characterization of an urban-rural CO2/temperature gradient and associated changes in initial plant productivity during secondary succession. Oecologia 139, 454–458 (2004).

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