A critical literature review of bioretention research for stormwater management in cold climate and future research recommendations

  • Hannah Kratky
  • Zhan Li
  • Yijun Chen
  • Chengjin Wang
  • Xiangfei Li
  • Tong Yu
Review Article
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Low Impact Development and Sponge City


Bioretention is a popular best management practice of low impact development that effectively restores urban hydrologic characteristics to those of predevelopment and improves water quality prior to conveyance to surface waters. This is achieved by utilizing an engineered system containing a surface layer of mulch, a thick soil media often amended with a variety of materials to improve water quality, a variety of vegetation, and underdrains, depending on the surrounding soil characteristics. Bioretention systems have been studied quite extensively for warm climate applications, but data strongly supporting their long-term efficacy and application in cold climates is sparse. Although it is apparent that bioretention is an effective stormwater management system, its design in cold climate needs further research. Existing cold climate research has shown that coarser media is required to prevent concrete frost from forming. For spring, summer and fall seasons, if sufficient permeability exists to drain the system prior to freezing, peak flow and volume reduction can be maintained. Additionally, contaminants that are removed via filtration are also not impacted by cold climates. In contrary, dissolved contaminants, nutrients, and organics are significantly more variable in their ability to be removed or degraded via bioretention in colder temperatures.Winter road maintenance salts have been shown to negatively impact the removal of some contaminants and positively impact others, while their effects on properly selected vegetation or bacteria health are also not well understood. Research in these water quality aspects has been inconsistent and therefore requires further study.


Nutrients recovery Bioretention Cold climate Low impact development Stormwater 



This work is financially supported by a Collaborative Research and Development Grant (NSERC CRDPJ 455096-13 Yu) jointly sponsored by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada and the City of Edmonton in Alberta, Canada. It is also partially supported by a Queen Elizabeth II Graduate Scholarship from Government of Alberta and by a China Scholarship Council (CSC) Ph.D Scholarship.


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Copyright information

© Higher Education Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hannah Kratky
    • 1
  • Zhan Li
    • 1
  • Yijun Chen
    • 1
  • Chengjin Wang
    • 1
  • Xiangfei Li
    • 2
  • Tong Yu
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.City Planning, City of EdmontonEdmontonCanada

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