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Blog

Stormwater Management

Lucy Foley

Trees might have a larger stormwater management benefit than previously thought.

We plant and cherish trees in our cities because they provide us with many things we value, from beauty and shade, to stress relief and habitat. While some tree benefits are well studied and understood, others are less known. One tree benefit that has not been fully studied is that of storm water management.  

Trees contribute to stormwater management by reducing runoff, intercepting rainfall, and allowing for more infiltration into the pervious soil. A variety of tools exist to help us estimate the role of trees for stormwater runoff.

Trees contribute to stormwater management by reducing runoff, intercepting rainfall, and allowing for more infiltration into the pervious soil. A variety of tools exist to help us estimate the role of trees for stormwater runoff.

The iTree Hydro tool developed by the USDA Forest Service is available as part of its series of tools to quantify urban forest benefits. It allows users to test the effect of changes in the urban forest on stormwater runoff quantity and quality.

Our research using the tool has highlighted the importance of pervious ground cover to reduce stormwater runoff, as well as the modest but beneficial impact of trees. [More information on this research: link to my master’s project]

Recent research in Metro Vancouver has now shown that the urban forest can intercept a significantly higher proportion of rainfall than observed in natural, forested conditions. With more research measuring tree benefits in the urban context, we will keep improving our understanding of urban forest benefits, and bettering our communities.

Camille Lefrancois