The city is an ecosystem, pipes and all
What scientists are finding when they treat the urban landscape as an evolving environment of its own
By Courtney Humphries
Boston Globe Correspondent November 07, 2014
Is a tree trying to survive in the city better off than a tree growing in the forest? The obvious answer would seem to be “no”: City trees face pollution, poor soil, and a root system disrupted by asphalt and pipes.
But when ecologists at Boston University took core samples from trees around Eastern Massachusetts, they found a surprise: Boston street trees grow twice as fast as trees outside the city. Over time, the more development increased around them, the faster they grew.
Why? If you’re a tree, city life also offers a number of advantages. You benefit from the extra nitrogen and carbon dioxide in polluted city air; heat trapped by asphalt and concrete warms you in the cold months. There’s less competition for light and space.
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