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The effect of urban ground cover on microclimate, growth and leaf gas exchange of oleander in Phoenix, Arizona

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Abstract

We assessed how small patches of contrasting urban ground cover [mesiscape (turf), xeriscape (gravel), concrete, and asphalt] altered the microclimate and performance of adjacent oleander (Nerium oleander L.) plants in Phoenix, Arizona during fall/winter (September–February) and spring/summer (March–September). Ground-cover and oleander canopy surface temperatures, canopy air temperatures and pot soil temperatures tended to be lowest in the mesiscape and highest in the asphalt and concrete. Canopy air vapor pressure deficits were lowest in the mesiscape and highest in the asphalt plot. Rates of net photosynthesis of all oleander plants were highest in October and May, and declined through mid-summer (June–July), when rates tended to be highest in the cooler mesiscape, particularly when water was limiting. During fall/winter, oleanders in the mesiscape produced 20% less biomass, 13% less leaf area, and had 12% lower relative growth rates (RG) than those in the other ground covers. Lower nighttime temperatures in the mesiscape in December led to oleander frost damage. During spring/summer, oleanders in the mesiscape produced 11% more biomass, 16% more leaf area, and had 3% higher RG than those in the other cover types. The effects of urban ground cover on oleander performance were season-specific; while oleander growth was greatest in the mesiscape during spring/summer, it was lowest during fall/winter and these plants experienced frost damage. Because all oleander plants produced >10 times as much biomass during the spring/summer, on an annual basis oleanders in the mesiscape produced 5–11% more biomass than plants in the warmer ground covers.

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Acknowledgements

We thank S. Wightman, J. Gallaher, J. Vannett and E. Foley for field assistance, and Duane Ray Architects, Rolands-Cox Construction, Desert Tree Farm, Brooks Turf, and Desert Composting for donating time and supplies. Drs. C. Martin and S. Szarek provided useful comments on this manuscript. Partial support for this project was provided by the National Science Foundation under grant DEB-9714833, Central Arizona-Phoenix, Long-Term Ecological Research (CAP LTER)

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Correspondence to Thomas A. Day.

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Mueller, E.C., Day, T.A. The effect of urban ground cover on microclimate, growth and leaf gas exchange of oleander in Phoenix, Arizona. Int J Biometeorol 49, 244–255 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00484-004-0235-1

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