Roles of horizontal and vertical tree canopy structure in mitigating daytime and nighttime urban heat island effects
The urban heat island (UHI) is increasingly recognized as a serious, worldwide problem because of urbanization and climate change. Urban vegetation is capable of alleviating UHI and improving urban environment by shading together with evapotranspiration. While the impacts of abundance and spatial configuration of vegetation on land surface temperature (LST) have been widely examined, very little attention has been paid to the role of vertical structure of vegetation in regulating LST. In this study, we investigated the relationships between horizontal/vertical structure characteristics of urban tree canopy and LST as well as diurnal divergence in Nanjing City, China, with the help of high resolution vegetation map, Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) data and various statistical analysis methods. The results indicated that composition, configuration and vertical structure of tree canopy were all significantly related to both daytime LST and nighttime LST. Tree canopy showed stronger influence on LST during the day than at night. Note that the contribution of composition of tree canopy to explaining spatial heterogeneity of LST, regardless of day and night, was the highest, followed by vertical structure and configuration. Combining composition, configuration and vertical structure of tree canopy can take advantage of their respective advantages, and best explain variation in both daytime LST and nighttime LST. As for the independent importance of factors affecting spatial variation of LST, percent cover of tree canopy (PLAND), mean tree canopy height (TH_Mean), amplitude of tree canopy height (TA) and patch cohesion index (COHESION) were the most influential during the day, while the most important variables were PLAND, maximum height of tree canopy (TH_Max), variance of tree canopy height (TH_SD) and COHESION at night. This research extends our understanding of the impacts of urban trees on the UHI effect from the horizontal to three-dimensional space. In addition, it may offer sustainable and effective strategies for urban designers and planners to cope with increasing temperature.