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Making Urban Trees Count: Quantifying and crediting stormwater benefits

Water drops on pine needles

Making Urban Trees Count: Quantifying and crediting stormwater benefits
January 10, 2018

Karen Cappiella, Center for Watershed Protection
Justin Hynicka, American Forests

The water quality benefits of forests are widely accepted, yet very few studies have successfully quantified the runoff and pollutant-reducing impacts of trees in the urban landscape. Uncertainty as to how to “credit” urban trees – everything from individual street trees up to small patches of forest – for runoff and pollutant load reduction has hampered their use as a stormwater best management practice (BMP). In this webinar, Karen Cappiella and Justin Hynicka will review the available stormwater crediting systems for urban tree planting and will present a new crediting system that can be integrated into state and local compliance systems for stormwater management, Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs), and other water quality requirements. The presenters will share a case study example of how this crediting framework has been formally adopted by state and federal agencies as part of the Chesapeake Bay TMDL, which covers 64,000 square miles across six states and DC.

This project was made possible in part by funding from the USDA Forest Service National Urban and Community Forestry Challenge Cost-Share Grant program. The National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council (NUCFAC) sets the categories for this grant program based on the Ten-Year Urban Forestry Action Plan and recommends to the Forest Service innovative urban and community forestry research and projects that should be considered for funding.


View the webinar podcast

Making Urban Trees Count: Quantifying and crediting stormwater benefits
Karen Cappiella
Director of Research
Center for Watershed Protection

Relative Reductions in Water Yield by Urban Trees
Justin Hynicka
Manager of Forest Conservation
American Forests


Resources Mentioned in the Webinar

Making Urban Trees Count
This website provides downloads of products related to two urban tree planting credits developed by the Center for Watershed Protection with funding from the U.S. Forest Service.

Urban Tree Canopy Expansion BMP Report
This report summarizes the recommendations of the Expert Panel to define the pollutant removal performance of urban tree canopy expansion as a best management practice for Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) credit.

Tree Credits and Incentives at the Site Scale
A review of tree crediting systems across the country that was used to inform the development of tree credits in Vermont’s 2017 Stormwater Management Manual Rule.

Vibrant Cities Lab
Vibrant Cities Lab is a joint project of the U.S. Forest Service, American Forests, and the National Association of Regional Councils that merges the latest research with best practices for implementing green infrastructure projects in your community.

US Forest Service Resources

Trees & Stormwater
Developed in partnership with the Ohio Kentucky Indiana Regional Council of Governments and other partners, this interactive guide informs local decision makers of options and best practices for including trees in stormwater facility design regulations and policies. It includes case studies, methods, benefit calculators, and guidance on how adding trees can boost overall system performance, often at lower costs. Check out this video to help you navigate the website.

Give Me the Numbers: How trees and urban forests really affect stormwater runoff
This Urban Forest Connections webinar provides information that can help municipal natural resource managers more effectively work across disciplines to ensure the urban forest is a part of the solution for mitigating stormwater runoff and managing hydrologic function in their communities.