Despite the widespread recognition that urban areas are frequently dominated by exotic and invasive plants, the consequences of these changes in community structure have not been explicitly considered as an explanation for the pattern of advanced leaf phenology, or early greenup, reported in many urban areas. As such, we evaluated two hypotheses that could account for advanced greenup in forests along an urban to rural gradient: advanced phenology within individual species or differences in woody plant community. We monitored the spring leafing phenology of Aesculus glabra (Ohio buckeye), Lonicera maackii (Amur honeysuckle), and Acer negundo (box elder) in 11 forests spanning an urban to rural gradient in central Ohio, USA. From February to April 2006, we monitored these species, recorded woody plant composition, and documented daily minimum and maximum temperatures at each site. We found a weak but general trend of advanced phenology within species in more urban landscapes. Monthly average minimum temperatures were higher with increasing urbanization while monthly average maximum temperatures were similar across the urban to rural gradient. We also found evidence for shifts in woody plant communities along the urbanization gradient, mainly driven by the abundance of L. maackii, an invasive exotic species, in the more urban forests. Because L. maackii leafs out weeks earlier than native woody species and is very abundant in urban forests, we suggest that the invasion of forests by this species can generate earlier greenup of urban forests.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.