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Transpiration of urban trees and its impact on nocturnal cooling in Gothenburg, Sweden

Conference contribution
Authors Janina Konarska
Johan Uddling
Björn Holmer
Martina Lutz
Fredrik Lindberg
Håkan Pleijel
Sofia Thorsson
Published in ICUC9 – 9 th International Conference on Urban Climate jointly with 12th Symposium on the Urban Environment. 20-24 July 2015, Toulouse, France
Publication year 2015
Published at Department of Earth Sciences
Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Language en
Subject categories Climate Research, Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences, Physical Geography


One of the ecosystem services provided by urban trees is the cooling effect caused by their transpiration. However, while the transpiration of forest trees has been widely studied, little research has been conducted on the daytime and night-time transpirational cooling effect of mature urban trees. Knowledge about the transpiration of street and park trees and its response to different environmental factors can prove useful in estimating the thermal influence of urban greenery as well as in urban planning and management. The aim of this study is to i) quantify the magnitude and diurnal variation of transpiration of common urban tree species in a high latitude city (Gothenburg, Sweden), ii) analyse the influence of weather conditions and fraction of permeable surfaces within the vertically projected crown area on tree transpiration, and iii) find out whether transpiration of urban trees remains active during the night and therefore contributes to nocturnal cooling. Measurements were conducted on mature street and park trees of seven tree species common in Gothenburg: Tilia europaea (Common lime), Quercus robur (English oak), Betula pendula (Silver birch), Acer platanoides (Norway maple), Aesculus hippocastanum (Horse chestnut), Fagus sylvatica (European beech) and Prunus serrulata (Japanese cherry). Stomatal conductance and leaf transpiration were measured using a LI-6400XT Portable Photosynthesis System (LI-COR Biosciences) at daytime and night-time on warm summer days of 2012-2013 in Gothenburg. Leaf area index (LAI) of the studied trees was measured with a LAI-2200 Plant Canopy Analyser (LI-COR Biosciences) in order to estimate the latent heat flux due to tree transpiration. Leaf transpiration was found to increase with vapour pressure deficit and photosynthetically active radiation, with on average 22% of the midday incoming solar radiation being converted into latent heat flux. Midday rates of sunlit leaves varied between species, ranging from less than 1 mmol m-2 s-1 (B. pendula) to over 3 mmol m-2 s-1 (Q. robur). Daytime stomatal conductance was positively related to the fraction of permeable surfaces within the vertically projected tree crown area. A simple estimate of available rainwater, comprising of precipitation sum and a fractional surface permeability within the tree crown area, was found to explain 68% of variation in midday stomatal conductance. The results indicate that a high fractional surface permeability can minimize the frequency of water stress experienced by urban trees and enhance their transpirational cooling. Night-time transpiration was observed in all studied species and was positively related to daytime tree water use. Nocturnal transpiration amounted to 7% and 20% of midday transpiration of sunlit and shaded leaves, respectively. With an estimated latent heat flux of 27 W m-2, evening tree transpiration enhanced the cooling rates around and 1-2 hours after sunset, but not later in the night. The results of transpiration measurements will be combined with vegetation data derived from LIDAR and LAI measurements to estimate neighbourhood- to city-scale cooling effect provided by urban trees.

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