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Street Tree Pits as Bioretention Units: Effects of Soil Organic Matter and Area Permeability on the Volume and Quality of Urban Runoff

  • Frosi, Marcelo Henrique1
  • Kargar, Maryam1
  • Jutras, Pierre1
  • Prasher, Shiv O.1
  • Clark, O. Grant1
  • 1 McGill University, Department of Bioresource Engineering, Macdonald Campus, 21111 Lakeshore Rd., Ste.-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec, QC, H9X 3V9, Canada , Quebec (Canada)
Published Article
Water Air & Soil Pollution
Publication Date
Jun 25, 2019
DOI: 10.1007/s11270-019-4197-7
Springer Nature


The quantity, intensity, and quality of urban stormwater runoff are changing as a consequence of urbanization and climate change. Low impact development (LID) techniques (e.g., bioretention systems) are emerging to manage runoff quantity and quality. Street tree pits were used as bioretention units in Montreal, Canada. The concentration and mass flux of contaminants (Na, Cr, Ni, Cu, Zn, Cd, Pb) and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) were measured in soil solution samples from the tree pits. The soil organic matter (SOM) and the permeability of the area nearby the tree pit (sidewalk and front lawn) were tested. The SOM did not affect contaminant concentrations. However, tree pits with higher SOM reduced the mass flux of contaminants more than tree pits with lower SOM. Sidewalk permeability decreased the concentration and mass flux of contaminants observed (e.g., Na and Cr). The estimated water flux in the open part of the tree pit changed from 6.15 to 1.64 mm week−1 from the less permeable units (absence of lawn + impermeable sidewalk) to the more permeable units (presence of lawn + permeable sidewalk). Urban runoff quality and quantity were locally affected by the tree pits. This indicates that the increase in surface permeability and SOM in street tree pits is advisable. Street tree pits have the potential as bioretention units to locally mitigate some of the impacts of urbanization. City planners could consider the use of street tree pits as bioretention units to help the management of urban runoff.

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