Adaptation of trees to the urban environment : Acacia karroo in Potchefstroom, South Africa
Pelser, Alida Yonanda
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Urban open spaces are of strategic importance to the quality of life of our increasingly urbanized society. Trees and related vegetation are planted and managed within the communities and cities to create or add value to the busy lives of the city dwellers. Trees in towns and cities form an important part of complex urban ecosystems and provide significant ecosystem services and benefits for urban dwellers, for example: reducing particulate pollution, carbon sequestration, decreasing air temperature, decreasing water runoff, aesthetic value and an increase in human health. Trees are solarpowered technology that can help restore balance to dysfunctional urban ecosystems. Trees form strands in the urban fabric that connect people to nature and to each other. The urban environment puts tremendous strain on trees by trenching, limited space for root growth and emission of pollutants into the atmosphere, water and soil. The problem is that the real impact of the urban environment on the trees within our community is unknown. The aim of this investigation was to assess the overall anthropogenic and environmental impacts on urban trees by measuring the tree vitality of Acacia karroo using chlorophyll fluorescence kinetics (JIP-test) and the leaf water potential using a pressure chamber. Tree vitality was quantified as the chlorophyll fluorescence-based performance index (PIABS)T. ree vitality measurements were also correlated with soil physical and chemical data. In the comparative study, an urbanization gradient approach was followed in which results of trees in rural areas were regarded as controls. The gradient approach is used worldwide and provides a background for questions of ecological structure and function. The urbanization gradient was quantified using the V-I-S model, based on % cover of vegetation, impervious surface and soil. Additionally, a model to determine the monetary value of trees in urban environments (SATAM) was tested. All this information could eventually contribute to develop an urban tree management program for Potchefstroom. It was evident from the current study that urbanization has a negative impact on tree vitality. The leaf water potential of a tree was, however, not necessarily negatively impacted upon. Although trees in urban environments did not always have a high vitality (PIABS)t, hey still played a major role in the urban environment. According to the tree appraisal method (SATAM), some of these trees have a value of R60 000.