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J Environ Qual. 2016 Jan;45(1):199-206. doi: 10.2134/jeq2015.01.0060.

Tree Species Suitability to Bioswales and Impact on the Urban Water Budget.


Water movement between soil and the atmosphere is restricted by hardscapes in the urban environment. Some green infrastructure is intended to increase infiltration and storage of water, thus decreasing runoff and discharge of urban stormwater. Bioswales are a critical component of a water-sensitive urban design (or a low-impact urban design), and incorporation of trees into these green infrastructural components is believed to be a novel way to return stored water to the atmosphere via transpiration. This research was conducted in The Morton Arboretum's main parking lot, which is one of the first and largest green infrastructure installations in the midwestern United States. The parking lot is constructed of permeable pavers and tree bioswales. Trees in bioswales were evaluated for growth and condition and for their effects on water cycling via transpiration. Our data indicate that trees in bioswales accounted for 46 to 72% of total water outputs via transpiration, thereby reducing runoff and discharge from the parking lot. By evaluating the stomatal conductance, diameter growth, and condition of a variety of tree species in these bioswales, we found that not all species are equally suited for bioswales and that not all are equivalent in their transpiration and growth rates, thereby contributing differentially to the functional capacity of bioswales. We conclude that species with high stomatal conductance and large mature form are likely to contribute best to bioswale function.

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