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Loss of street trees predicted to cause 6000 L/tree increase in leaf-on stormwater runoff for Great Lakes urban sewershed

July 5, 2022

Urban forests are recognized as a nature-based solution for stormwater management. This study assessed the underlying processes and extent of runoff reduction due to street trees with a paired-catchment experiment conducted in two sewersheds of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Computer models are flexible, fast, and low-cost options to generalize and assess the hydrologic processes determined in field studies. A state-of-the-art, public-domain model, which explicitly simulates urban tree hydrology, i-Tree Hydro, was used to simulate the paired-catchment experiment, and results from field observations and simulation predictions were compared to assess model validity and suitability as per conditions in the broader Great Lakes basin. Model parameters were aligned with observed conditions using automatic and manual calibration. Model performance metrics were used to quantify the weekly performance of calibration and to validate predictions. Those calibration metrics differed substantially between the two periods simulated, but most calibration metrics remained positive, indicating the model was not fitting only the period used for calibration. Predicted avoided runoff for a five-month leaf-on period was 64 L/m2 of canopy, 4 % lower than the field-estimated avoided runoff of 66 L/m2 of canopy. Interception was the most directly comparable process between the model and field observations. Based on 5 storms sampled, field estimation of precipitation intercepted and retained on trees averaged 63 % and ranged from 22 % to 81 %, while model estimation averaged 61 % and ranged from 36 % to 99 %. This model was able to fit predictions to observed catchment discharge but required extensive manual calibration to do so. The i-Tree Hydro model predicted avoided runoff comparable with the field study and earlier assessments. Additional field studies in similar settings are needed to confirm findings and improve transferability to other tree species and environmental settings.

Publication Year 2022
Title Loss of street trees predicted to cause 6000 L/tree increase in leaf-on stormwater runoff for Great Lakes urban sewershed
DOI 10.1016/j.ufug.2022.127649
Authors Robert C. Coville, James Kruegler, William R. Selbig, Satoshi Hirabayashi, Stephen Loheid, William Avery, William Shuster, Ralph J. Haefner, Bryant C. Scharenbroch, Theodore A. Endreny, Dave Nowak
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Urban Forestry & Urban Greening
Index ID 70239882
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Wisconsin Water Science Center; Upper Midwest Water Science Center