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  • Lauren Mandel 9:59 pm on May 26, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    Macro to Micro: Scalable Urban Habitat 

    McCormack Post Office and Courthouse Building green roof in Boston, designed by Andropogon Associates. Photo credit J. Nystedt.

    McCormack Post Office and Courthouse Building green roof in Boston,
    designed by Andropogon Associates.
    Photo credit: J. Nystedt.

    In 1998 Leslie Sauer Jones wrote The Once and Future Forest: A Guide to Forest Restoration Strategies. Embedded within the book’s forward, landscape architect Ian McHarg implored: “We must participate, with action and all the experience we can bring” in order to attempt to reverse environmental degradation and we can no longer expect our actions to be reversed with inaction. He further suggested that we embrace, “important havens, such as the interstices of cities” as critical canvasses for habitat enhancement and expansion for our native plants and animals.

    Within our cities, large, contiguous tracts of vegetation, such as urban forests and riverfront corridors, offer critical ecological value potential. However, in more densely developed fragments of the city, where landscape design increasingly occurs, researchers are discovering that purposely selected woody plants can similarly provide animal species with viable urban habitat. Conceptualizing the ecological value of these urban interstices may be a function of perspective, or scale.

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  • Lauren Mandel 1:10 pm on May 17, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    Urban Plants & Soil as Stormwater Management Workhorses 

    Shoemaker Green at the University of Pennsylvania, designed by Andropogon Associates with stormwater engineering by Meliora Design. Photo credit Barrett Doherty

    Shoemaker Green at the University of Pennsylvania, designed by Andropogon Associates with stormwater engineering by Meliora Design.
    Photo credit Barrett Doherty

    When high-intensity rainfall events roll through cities, particularly those with combined sewer systems, peak flows increasingly overwhelm grey infrastructure, compromise water quality, and induce sedimentation and erosion. New research suggests that engineered soil and purposely selected plants within green infrastructure may help offset these flows by offering more benefit than most stormwater engineering models and municipalities acknowledge.

    A handful of progressive entities – like the Chesapeake Stormwater Network and the Commonwealth of Virginia – now award extra stormwater credit for management approaches that deploy high-performance engineered soils, dense and varied planting palettes, or an inter-connected series of green infrastructure elements. More research is needed, however, to mobilize engineers, designers, and policy makers to rely more heavily on the “green” in green infrastructure.

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    • Lauren Mandel 2:38 pm on July 21, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Thank you, Jim! We think this topic is relevant to urbanites and urban stormwater policy alike.


    • Trevor Kimball 9:01 pm on October 7, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      I’m not sure if this is the right place to post this, but I wanted to get some feedback on issues related to stormwater infiltration/management in planting beds along a roadway, especially in the Intermountain West region. I figured this could be a good forum to possibly get some answers.

      1. What is the right way to deal with high clay content in soil for infiltration areas? What are appropriate procedures for amending the existing soil in these types of situations?
      2. How do you deal with chemicals from roadway runoff, especially high salt concentrations from winter road maintenance on a busy street? If irrigation is in place (for use when needed), is there procedure for “flushing” these types of contaminants through the soil? Or is it simply handled by selecting the appropriate plants for the situation, with the expectation that they will be resilient enough to withstand such chemicals?

      I apologize if these seem to be simple or naïve questions. I have read a lot of information concerning green infrastructure, but don’t have a lot of experience with it and am trying to become more educated so I can have the correct approach when working on these types of projects. I would appreciate anyone’s insight who may have expertise in this area.



      • Jim Urban 5:35 pm on October 26, 2016 Permalink | Reply

        Trevor On clay soils, There is emerging research that suggest that fracturing these soils to a depth of about 24 inches and then tilling the top 8″ really increases the permeability and reduces runoff of these soils. in your area I would also apply compost when tilling. If you send me an email to jimtree123@gmail.com I will send you the papers. On salt, your biggest issue is low rainfall means less flushing, and flushing along with good soil in the bed is critical. Be sure to include under drainage lines in all beds is the best recommendation along with using plants that have a good track record of salt tolerance.


    • Jim Urban 4:17 pm on November 28, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Trevor: Sorry it took me so long to respond. Here is my take on your questions.
      1. Clay soil: Simply fracturing, deep tilling, ripping, lofting what ever we should be calling it will make clay soils excellent soils for infiltration. My method id to use a back hoe and dig into the soil to about 24 inches and then drop the soil back into place. There is an excellent paper on using clay soil that was presented at the ASLA conference in Chicago “Amending Site Soil to Enhance Infiltration on Compacted Urban Sites” The actual paper reference is “Controlling Storm water Quality and Quantity by amending soils for enhanced infiltration on construction sites in North Carolina Richard McLaughlin et all April 28, 2014. This study only looked at runoff and they were not looking at plant growth. I would add a 3” layer of compost to the fractured soil and surface till it to improve plant growth if the soil is low in organic matter (less than 2% in my areas but in the intermountain areas a much lower SOM may be fine. A second study Below Ground Matters: Urban Soils rehabilitation increases tree canopy and speeds establishment, Lyman et all Urban Forestry & Urban greening, 16 (2016) 25-35, looks at a similar soil fracturing concept on tree growth. This paper did not look at infiltration but there is a strong link between infiltration and plant growth. If you get one you will get the other. There are several other research projects that examine reuse of existing soils on other soil types.
      The easiest way to get the papers is to send me an email to Jimtree123@gmail.com and i will send you copies ( and anyone else who responds to this post).
      2. Chemicals from road ways particularly salt. There is a section in my book “Up by roots” on salt (pare 64-65 and 314) that should guide your thinking on a wide range of salt issues. The most simplistic answer I can offer is that you need to identify the extent of the problem. I find for example that in dense retail environments where normal road salt and sidewalk salt are combined with additional salt spread by business owners the problem is the most severe and a multi range approach is needed. Road soil by itself is not too severer if the soil is well draining an not compacted. This can most often be felt with by better plant choices. But road salt that becomes airborn and drifts can impact a wide range of plants.

      Hope this helps.
      Jim Urban


      • Trevor Kimball 6:09 pm on January 11, 2017 Permalink | Reply

        Thanks for your reply, I appreciate your input! I will send you an email to get the papers you mentioned, that should be helpful.


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