Green infrastructure and ecophysiology

We are currently working on multiple projects associated with green infrastructure (GI) in Philadelphia.

Storm water management is of major concern for cities with outdated combined sewer systems. During rain events combined sewer overflow pollutes watersheds, and impairs local streams and rivers. Storm water interception by green infrastructure (GI) installations utilizing trees will be a major contributor to improving overall runoff control. More information can be found at the Philadelphia Water Department’s watershed website.

Evapotranspiration by plants can contribute greatly to diverting excess water from sewer systems. It is important to monitor GI tree physiology, to better understand how much they are contributing to storm water management. This research project focuses on assessing the ability of street trees transpire storm water.

Tree trench research

In collaboration with colleagues at Villanova University we are conducting a study of street tree evapotranspiration rates, leaf water potential (Ψlf) and leaf area index (LAI) in green infrastructure installations around the Hill Freedman World Academy in the Cedarbrook neighborhood of Philadelphia.

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IMG_1533 IMG_1546Morris Leeds School tree trench

Green roof research

In collaboration with colleagues at Temple University we are researching green roof substrates and trialing various native plant species for potential use on green roofs. We have also evaluated green roof substrate amended with biochar as a growing media for culinary herbs.


Bioswale and rain garden research

We are currently working with a multidisciplinary team to evaluate recently constructed bioswales along the Interstate 95 corridor.  For this project the overarching goals of the plant monitoring program are to (1) evaluate plant health and soil conditions, (2) assess plant contributions to contaminant uptake and stormwater management, and (3) inform the future selection of plant species. The specific components of this work includes:

  • Conducting inventories of intentionally plant species to determine plant health and survival rates through the first two years post construction.
  • Evaluating plant health by measuring leaf-level ecophysiological rates  (e.g., features of fluorescence, photosynthesis, and stomatal conductance of water) using LICOR 6800 and 6400 photosynthesis sytems.
  • Identifying the spontaneously occurring species, particularly in a minimally managed stormwater infiltration basin
  • Measuring plant sorption and uptake of heavy metals and nutrients.
  • Measuring heavy metals and nutrients adsorbed by soil.