Trees as green infrastructure: exploring the socio-ecohydrological services of urban trees and forests

Authors: Mitchell Pavao-Zuckerman*, University of Maryland, Tuana Phillips, University of Maryland, Sarah Ponte Cabral, University of Maryland, Nancy Falxa Sonti, USFS, Neely Law, Center for Watershed Protection, Susan Day, Virginia Tech
Topics: Urban Geography, Water Resources and Hydrology, Coupled Human and Natural Systems
Keywords: ecosystem services, socio-ecology, hydrology, management, forest
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Jackson, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Trees and forests are under-appreciated as green infrastructure elements in cities, but are critical contributors to sustainability, resilience, and well-being. Implementing urban forests to provide ecosystem services requires an improved understanding of the functional performance of forests in different urban contexts. To address this gap, we introduce a novel research framework that uses socio-ecohydrological approaches to assess the stormwater retention benefits of urban trees in different management settings. We have monitored ecohydrologic functions of trees in different contexts, including, forest patches, clusters of trees over grass, and single trees over along streets. Here, we explore stormwater management capacities by trees in Baltimore forest patches and how their socio-ecohydroloical and management contexts influence functioning. Forest patches in Baltimore vary in infiltration capacity, but on average infiltrate around 60% of precipitation events. Transpiration rates also vary, but individual trees have peak transpiration rates that are double those of trees in forest patches. Context drives these ecosystem services by affecting the physical environment (temperature, relative humidity), and this context is driven in turn by socio-ecological factors of the surrounding landscape. These data will help to inform guidelines for practitioners using urban forest patches to manage ecosystem services, such as stormwater flows. Our results contribute to policy and practice by defining a nutrient reduction credit for urban tree canopies of different management settings in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Future research should explore feedbacks in socio-ecohydrologic drivers and responses, as well as expanding the characterization of social and environmental benefits of forest patches.

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