- Porous pavement cover promoted faster establishment of London plane trees.
- Tree roots under porous pavement were shallower than those in unpaved soil.
- Soil water and temperature at 10-cm depth were initially higher under pavement.
- Porous pavement may extend the tree root-growing season in colder regions.
In dense urban areas with heavy pedestrian traffic, current trends favor covering tree pits with porous-permeable pavement over installing grates or leaving the soil exposed. However, pavement cover potentially modifies soil moisture and temperature, altering tree growth and overall resilience, especially when coupled with heat stress and drought in a changing climate. This study evaluated the response of newly planted London plane (Platanus × acerifolia ‘Bloodgood’) trees to porous-permeable resin-bound gravel pavement and associated alterations in soil water distribution and temperature, in two distinct physiographic regions in Virginia, USA. Simulated urban tree pits were either covered with porous-permeable pavement or left unpaved, and root growth and depth, soil water content and temperature, and tree stem diameter measured over two growing seasons. At both sites, trees in paved tree pits grew larger than trees without pavement. Stem diameters were 29% greater at the Mountain site and 51% greater at the Coastal Plain site, as were tree heights (19% and 38% greater), and above ground dry biomass (67% and 185% greater). Roots under pavement developed faster and shallower, with many visible surface roots. In contrast, unpaved tree pits had almost no visible surface roots, and at the Mountain site only occupied an average area of 7 cm2 within the 1-m2 tree pits, compared with 366 cm2 in paved tree pits. Pavement may have extended the root growing season by as much as 14 days, as the average soil temperature for the month of October was 1.1 °C and 1.2 °C higher under pavement than in unpaved pits. Porous-permeable pavement installations in tree pits accelerated establishment and increased growth of transplanted trees, but may result in shallower root systems that can damage pavement and other infrastructure. In addition, shallow root systems may prevent water extraction from deeper soils, compromising drought resilience.