Baltimore Ecosystem Study Institute of Ecosystem Studies

2013 BES Annual Meeting Presentation and Poster Abstracts

Ecohydrological Processes and Urban Water: the Role of Flora and Fauna in the Urban Watershed Continuum
Belt, Ken
Co-Authors: Ken Belt Sujay Kaushal Richard Pouyat Christopher Swan

Our understanding of aquatic and forest ecosystems has evolved over the decades, revealing an ever-greater complexity and connectivity of ecohydrological systems where water flow and ecological processes are highly coupled. This coupling interacts with engineered urban water systems in complex ways that are important to the management and delivery of ecosystem services (e.g., provision of water, retention of nutrients). This complexity goes far beyond the simple conveyance and rudimentary treatment functions of stormwater management, and so current efforts to transform stormwater control measures (SCMs) into green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) are likely to transform the urban water landscape in many important, unappreciated ways. In fact, the widespread implementation of GSI facilities promises to turn back the "sanitary city" view of stormwater as wastewater by restoring many diverted surface flows to groundwater and soil ecosystems. This will greatly change the present engineering-dominated urban watershed continuum (UWC) by shifting biogeochemical and hydrological functions into the upland landscape. Such a shift will pose important questions regarding ecosystem services and disservices that will, more than ever before, be based in the workings of the socio-ecohydrological System (SES) where people, ecological processes and hydrology will be more intermingled than ever before. We discuss how ecohydrology and forestry needs to be a prominent part of facilitating interdisciplinary discussions to both advance GSI science, and just as importantly, to integrate these into the SES connections needed to create ecologically based, sustainable to the "humane metropolis" of the future.