Article Development of fine root biomass of two contrasting urban tree cultivars in response to drought stress

Chi Zhang, Laura Myrtiá Faní Stratópoulos, Chao Xu, Hans Pretzsch, Thomas Rötzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Global climate change associated with rapid urbanization is projected to cause a worsening of environmental problems such as extreme heat and drought in cities. Urban trees play an essential role in improving air quality, fixing carbon, mitigating environmental degradation, and providing other ecosystem services. However, limited research has been conducted on belowground processes, which hampers a comprehensive understanding of the effect of climate change and urbanization on urban tree growth. Fine roots (<2-mm diameter) are the primary pathway for water and nutrient uptake by plants, and they considerably contribute to the survival of urban trees under drought stress. In this study, we conducted a controlled experiment on the development of fine roots of Tilia cordata Mill 'Greenspire' and Tilia tomentosa Moench 'Brabant' in response to drought stress via soil coring. Our results indicate that the two cultivars have different strategies for coping with drought. Tilia tomentosa 'Brabant', originating from drier regions, gave allocation to deeper soil parts priority probably to obtain more water. On the other hand, Tilia cordata 'Greenspire', which is native in Central Europe, showed a negative response to water shortage and preferred a more horizontal development of fine roots rather than a vertical development. Long-term studies are needed to gain a better understanding of the belowground processes of urban trees to select tree species and cultivars which are appropriate for planting in major cities, particularly with regard to future climate change.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2020


  • Drought stress
  • Fine root biomass
  • Horizontal and vertical root growth
  • Urban trees


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