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Parks, Recreation, & Culture » Trees - Urban Forestry » Stormwater Trees

Stormwater Trees Research

Revised: october 12, 2016

Most of us have witnessed extreme rainfall events, and how quickly runoff accumulates from the roofs and paved surfaces of our city. Compare this to rural areas with greater tree canopy cover and absorbent surfaces. The City is promoting expansion of our urban forest for many reasons, including intercepting rainwater that would become polluted stormwater and threaten our waterways.

Stemflow is the portion of rainfall that is funnelled to the base of a tree, bringing water and nutrients to the roots. This is beneficial when the water can soak in, but becomes a hazard when the ground is hard at the base of a tree. The results of our Kamloops-based study (led by Thompson Rivers University) challenge the idea that stemflow is usually a negligible quantity – it can certainly be substantial for trees with certain canopy characteristics. Our research on 40 trees at McArthur Island is the largest study of its kind in the world, and our findings are being cited by international researchers.

This research has implications for tree selection (“right tree, right place”) on public and private property. If integrated into the City’s Landscape Guidelines, the results could encourage use of high stemflow producers for self-irrigation on stable sites, and low stemflow producers where soils are unstable or water can’t soak in.

McArthur Island Park offered an incredible opportunity to study different species of commonly used trees in a uniform environment (e.g., weather, elevation). The City was an enthusiastic collaborator from the start, providing data on study trees and giving permission for our 18 months of fieldwork.

Learn more

Schooling, J. 2016. Resource or Hazard? Stemflow from Urban Trees. Sitelines: Green+Blue Infrastructure, October 2016. Online article
Hein, T. 2016. Trees to the Rescue. Alternatives Journal. Online article

International Journal Articles
Carlyle-Moses and Schooling, 2015. Tree traits and meteorological factors influencing the initiation and rate of stemflow from isolated deciduous trees.
Schooling and Carlyle-Moses, 2015. The influence of rainfall depth class and deciduous tree traits on stemflow production in an urban park. Urban Ecosystems.

The City’s leadership helped attract other valued partners as indicated by the logos below.

Thompson Rivers University Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Golder Associates Urban Systems Ltd University of Victoria The Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC

TD Friends of the Environment Real Estate Board of BC

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