Environmental Management

, Volume 44, Issue 4, pp 646–657 | Cite as

Transpiration and Root Development of Urban Trees in Structural Soil Stormwater Reservoirs

  • Julia Bartens
  • Susan D. DayEmail author
  • J. Roger Harris
  • Theresa M. Wynn
  • Joseph E. Dove


Stormwater management that relies on ecosystem processes, such as tree canopy interception and rhizosphere biology, can be difficult to achieve in built environments because urban land is costly and urban soil inhospitable to vegetation. Yet such systems offer a potentially valuable tool for achieving both sustainable urban forests and stormwater management. We evaluated tree water uptake and root distribution in a novel stormwater mitigation facility that integrates trees directly into detention reservoirs under pavement. The system relies on structural soils: highly porous engineered mixes designed to support tree root growth and pavement. To evaluate tree performance under the peculiar conditions of such a stormwater detention reservoir (i.e., periodically inundated), we grew green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica Marsh.) and swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor Willd.) in either CUSoil or a Carolina Stalite-based mix subjected to three simulated below-system infiltration rates for two growing seasons. Infiltration rate affected both transpiration and rooting depth. In a factorial experiment with ash, rooting depth always increased with infiltration rate for Stalite, but this relation was less consistent for CUSoil. Slow-drainage rates reduced transpiration and restricted rooting depth for both species and soils, and trunk growth was restricted for oak, which grew the most in moderate infiltration. Transpiration rates under slow infiltration were 55% (oak) and 70% (ash) of the most rapidly transpiring treatment (moderate for oak and rapid for ash). We conclude this system is feasible and provides another tool to address runoff that integrates the function of urban green spaces with other urban needs.


Best management practices (BMPs) Sap flow Transpiration Urban forestry Urban hydrology 



This project was supported in part by the USDA Forest Service Urban & Community Forestry Program on the recommendation of the National Urban & Community Forestry Advisory Council. Plant materials were kindly provided by J. Frank Schmidt and Sons Co., Boring, OR. We also thank Félix Rubén Arguedas Rodríguez, Mona Dollins, Velva Groover, James Wallen, and Stephanie Worthington for technical assistance. Mention of proprietary names in no way constitutes an endorsement from the authors or from Virginia Tech.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julia Bartens
    • 1
    • 3
  • Susan D. Day
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • J. Roger Harris
    • 1
  • Theresa M. Wynn
    • 4
  • Joseph E. Dove
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of HorticultureVirginia TechBlacksburgUSA
  2. 2.Department of Forest Resources & Environmental ConservationVirginia TechBlacksburgUSA
  3. 3.Department of Forest Resources & Environmental ConservationVirginia TechBlacksburgUSA
  4. 4.Department of Biological & Systems EngineeringVirginia TechBlacksburgUSA
  5. 5.Department of Civil & Environmental EngineeringVirginia TechBlacksburgUSA

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