Soil technological and other ecological aspects of state of trees in Moscow

O.V. Makarova

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


Moscow is one of the world's largest cities. Its height levels are such that the urban vegetation generally cannot benefit from groundwater. The natural soil is strongly modified by anthropogenic influences. Examples are the construction activities for the underground railways (metro) which reached down to a depth of 100m and the leading of river sections through underground tubes. In Moscow, street trees in pavement do occur, but most city trees grow on surfaces covered by a grass vegetation (lawn). Tree rows in a strip of grass occur frequently. The trees in Moscow are in a crisis. Especially the small-leaved lime (Tilia cordata), which occurs most frequently, shows a sub-optimal condition on many locations. This may have many causes. The thesis reports a research that aimed at finding relations between: results of visual assessment of tree condition (degree of withering); leaf size; shoot length; leaf transpiration; available water in the soil; heavy metals in the soil; heavy metals in the leaves; de-icing salt that has been applied to streets in winter (salt in the soil; salt in the leaves); nutrition ions in the soil; pH; humidity of the root zone; state of soil structure in the root zone. A major part of the measurements occurred in an area between the city centre (Kremlin) and a north-eastern suburb (Schelkovo). This area had bad ecological conditions. Measurements were done in the years 1998, 1999, and 2000. The measurements in 1998 had the function of learning Moscow's stock of trees and training adequate application of the measuring methods. The latter is especially necessary for the visual tree assessment, which requires a great expertise. The thesis is based on measuring data from the years 1999 and 2000. Sampling of leaves and shoots occurred in a specific growing stage and from a specific part of the tree boles. The leaf evaporation was measured on leaves that were cut from their branches by periodically weighing during the first 30 minutes (frequently) and during the first 5-7 hours (less frequently) after separation. Soil water characteristics of growing sites were estimated from particle size distribution and organic matter content using so-called pedotransfer-functions. Here, the so-called Staring Series was used. The evaporation data indicated that the trees suffered from water shortage. No clear relation was found between tree condition and leaf transpiration during the first 15 minutes after leaf separation. The course of leaf evaporation during a few hours after separation showed a much better correlation with tree condition. The estimated soil water characteristics did not show a relation with tree condition. This is probably due to the inaccuracy that is inherent to pedotransfer-functions. A simple water balance confirmed the shortage of water for the vegetation. The structure of the soil in the root zones appeared to be surprisingly bad. Much dust-like material was found in sieving analyses. This had several causes, like: the negative influence of de-icing salt; frequent moving of the earth material; immigration of fine particles from residues of building breaking. The large differences in soil stucture between city soils and natural/agricultural soils is, globally, studied very little and deserves much more attention. Tree condition appeared to be connected with soil nutrients status. The contents of heavy metals in the leaves showed relationships with tree condition if these contents were expressed in ppm/cm2 leaf area. These relationships had an optimum. The leaf area plays a role in the catchment of fine matter. The leaf contents of chlorine were high and showed a high correlation with tree condition. The use of an excessive amount of de-icing salt in winter was an important cause of the bad condition of many city trees. The measurements showed that trees at the sunny side of streets suffered more from the negative influence of de-icing salt than trees at the shady side. The leaf size as a function of tree condition showed an optimum. Relations were also found between tree condition, water content in the root zone, and shoot length.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • Perdok, U.D., Promotor
  • Koolen, A.J., Co-promotor
Award date10 Jan 2003
Place of PublicationWageningen
Print ISBNs9789058087928
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • trees
  • street trees
  • urban soils
  • soil properties
  • ecosystems
  • soil quality


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