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Open AccessEditor’s ChoiceArticle

When Green Infrastructure Turns Grey: Plant Water Stress as a Consequence of Overdesign in a Tree Trench System

1
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Villanova University, Villanova, PA 19085, USA
2
Department of Architecture and Environmental Design, Temple University, Ambler, PA 19002, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Current Address: Department of Environmental Engineering, Saint Francis University, Loretto, PA 15940, USA.
Water 2020, 12(2), 573; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12020573
Received: 13 January 2020 / Revised: 13 February 2020 / Accepted: 14 February 2020 / Published: 19 February 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances of Low Impact Development Practices in Urban Watershed)
Green infrastructure (GI) systems are often overdesigned. This may be a byproduct of static sizing (e.g., accounting for a design storm’s runoff volume but not exfiltration rates) or may be deliberate (e.g., buffering against performance loss through time). In tree trenches and other GI systems that require stormwater to accumulate in an infiltration bed before it contacts the planting medium, overdesign could reduce plant water availability significantly. This study investigated the hydrological dynamics and water relations of an overdesigned tree trench system and identified factors contributing to, compounding, and mitigating the risk of plant stress. Water in the infiltration bed reached soil pits only once in three years, with that event occurring during a hydrant release. Moreover, minimal water was retained in soil pits during the event due to the hydraulic properties of the soil media. Through a growing season, one of the two tree types frequently experienced water stress, while the other did so only rarely. These contrasting responses can likely be attributed to roots being largely confined to the soil pits vs. reaching a deeper water source, respectively. Results of this study demonstrate that, in systems where soil pits are embedded in infiltration beds, overdesign can raise the storm size required for water to reach the soil media, reducing plant water availability between storms, and ultimately inducing physiological stress. View Full-Text
Keywords: evapotranspiration; green infrastructure; HYDRUS-2D; leaf water potential; low impact development; optimization; overdesign; stomatal conductance; simulated runoff test; static sizing; stormwater control measure; tree trench evapotranspiration; green infrastructure; HYDRUS-2D; leaf water potential; low impact development; optimization; overdesign; stomatal conductance; simulated runoff test; static sizing; stormwater control measure; tree trench
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Tu, M.-C.; Caplan, J.S.; Eisenman, S.W.; Wadzuk, B.M. When Green Infrastructure Turns Grey: Plant Water Stress as a Consequence of Overdesign in a Tree Trench System. Water 2020, 12, 573.

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