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01.09.2014 | Original Article | Ausgabe 6/2014

Environmental Earth Sciences 6/2014

Tree-ring growth recovers, but δ13C and δ15N do not change, after the removal of point-source air pollution: a case study for poplar (Populus cathayana) in northwestern China

Zeitschrift:
Environmental Earth Sciences > Ausgabe 6/2014
Autoren:
Xiaomin Zeng, Xiaohong Liu, Guobao Xu, Wenzhi Wang, Wenling An

Abstract

Pollution from urban centers and fossil fuel combustion can decrease forest growth and interfere with physiological processes. To evaluate whether tree growth and the carbon isotope ratio (δ13C) and nitrogen isotope ratio (δ15N) in tree rings can serve as proxies for air pollution, this study compared these indices for poplar (Populus cathayana) growing at urban and suburban locations in Lanzhou, in northwestern China. Basal area increment values were much lower at the urban site than in the suburbs from 1985 to 2009, were negatively correlated with NO2 (r = −0.56, p < 0.01) and SO2 (r = −0.52, p < 0.05) emissions from 1990 to 2009, and increased abruptly after the Lanzhou urban steel factory closed. Urban tree-ring δ13C values were not significantly correlated with NO2 and SO2 concentrations, and did not differ significantly between the two sites, indicating that other environmental effects (such as precipitation) masked the pollution effects. Tree-ring δ15N values in the urban samples were much higher than the suburban values. Such differences may be attributable to uptake of 15N-enriched compounds caused by a higher urban N deposition rate. Tree growth is a promising tool for detecting ecophysiological responses of trees to both diffuse and point-source air pollution, but δ13C and δ15N in poplar were not sensitive to point-source air pollution in a heavily polluted environment.

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