Finding out how trees affect our stormwater

Have you noticed trees in St. Paul parks wearing foil cumberbunds?

Foil wrap and sign on tree. Sign says, 'How do trees affect our stormwater?'
Graduate student Xiating Chen places protective wrap and project information on a tree.

The foil is protecting instrumentation designed to monitor the flow of sap within the trees. That data, along with several other data points about the trees, will help researchers learn more about the role trees play in urban watersheds, a study called ecohydrology.

ecohydrology = ecology + hydrology 
ecology is the study of how organisms interact with one another and with their physical environment
hydrology is the study of how water moves through a landscape

Graduate student Xiating Chen, her advisor Professor Xue Feng, their research team, and collaborators from the Department of Forest Resources are looking to identify the benefits and burdens that urban nature, particularly trees, provide within an urban watersheds. Vegetation in urban watersheds (sometimes called green infrastructure) can help reduce flooding and cool neighborhoods. However, nutrients from trees and pollutants deposited on the trees can get into stormwater runoff and add to pollution in waters downstream of the urban area. The benefits and burdens of green infrastructure depend on where it is located within an urban watershed. The trees being studied as part of this project were chosen for their locations near roads, railroads, or industrial areas, allowing the researchers to compare the impacts of various environments and pollutants. Read more about the research here. This study is part of the MSP Urban Long Term Ecological Research program.

The photos below show the team setting up equipment to gather data at one of the four sites they will monitor this summer. 

Toting equipment to the study site
Birds eating insects damage the bark on EAB infected trees
Urban Hydrology sign
Measuring the girth of a tree
Photographing the tree canopy
Setting up rain guage
urban hydrology, rain collector
Xiating mounting a sap sensor
Inside the sensor
urban atmosphere sensor
Five members of the research team standing under a tree with research equipment