Urban forests and flood reduction

Authors: Heng Wan*, Virginia Tech, Daniel McLaughlin, Virginia Tech, Yang Shao, Virginia Tech, Xingwei Deng, Virginia Tech, Shyam Ranganathan, Virginia Tech, Brian van Eerden, The Nature Conservancy
Topics: Geographic Information Science and Systems, Spatial Analysis & Modeling, Remote Sensing
Keywords: hydrologic component, remote sensing
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2020
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Capitol Ballroom 2, Hyatt Regency, Fourth Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Conservation and restoration of urban forests are potentially significant tools for local and landscape-scale planning aimed at reducing flood risk. Forests provide flood reduction services in two primary ways: water storage and water removal. Forest provides water storage through soil infiltration and as standing surface water in depression locations, both of which serve to decrease runoff to adjacent locations. At the same time, water removal (via evapotranspiration) from forest canopies represents a key water sink in the landscape, increasing soil and surface water storage for future storm events. In contrast, urbanization largely decreases both water storage (via impervious surface) and ET (via vegetation loss or replacement), resulting in higher runoff volumes. To assess the flood reduction services of the forests in Virginia Beach, soil water storage, depressional water storage and ET were quantified at high spatial resolution by integrating available spatial data (eg., soil classes, land cover classes, LiDAR topography, and remotely-sensed ET) and then compared these services among land cover types and scenarios of land-use changes and sea level rises. The results found out that wetland forest has the largest contribution for flood reduction in Virginia Beach mainly due to its high mean ET values and its large spatial extent. Forested land in Virginia Beach provides important flood reduction services, but approximately 48% of this forested land remains unprotected. Sea level rise scenarios primarily inundate wetland forests, resulting in large losses to their contribution to terrestrial ET and thus flood reduction.

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