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GSA abstract: Storage Dynamics Revealed by Water Isotopes Provide Insight into Water Quality Function of Stormwater Green Infrastructure

Later this month, Caytie, Garrett, and I will be representing the Watershed Hydrology Lab at the Geological Society of America Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington. I will be presenting the following talk on Wednesday at 10:15 in WSCC Room 612.

Storage Dynamics Revealed by Water Isotopes Provide Insight into Water Quality Function of Stormwater Green Infrastructure

Jefferson, A., Sugano, L., Buzulencia, H., Avellaneda, P., and Kinsman-Costello, L.

Increasingly popular, stormwater green infrastructure is touted as improving water quality, through filtration and retention that allows plant uptake and biogeochemical processing to occur. Many data sets reveal large inter-storm variability of water quality in green infrastructure effluent, suggesting that internal dynamics that control water transit time may play an important role in the water quality functioning of green infrastructure. We hypothesized that collecting data on water stable isotopes, in addition to solute chemistry, would provide insight into transit times and would help explain variability in water quality flowing out of three forms of green infrastructure. Water isotopes, chemistry, and fluxes were measured from bulk precipitation, inflow, outflow, and surface water storage for a green roof, bioretention cell, and wetland at a site in northeastern Ohio.

On the green roof, outflow isotopes were variable within storms, but flow-weighted averages were similar to bulk precipitation for each event, suggesting transit times of minutes to hours. First flush behavior for solutes was exhibited for some storms and some solutes, but much of the inter-event variability in solute export could be explained by precipitation amount and antecedent dry period of each storm. In the bioretention cell, inter-event storage and release of old water is sometimes observed in the outflow isotopes. Outflow nitrogen concentrations were generally lower when old water was discharged, suggesting that denitrification is occurring within the bioretention cell. However, antecedent dry period also appears to influence nitrogen concentrations, suggesting some discharge of new water even during moderately-sized storms. Isotopic hydrograph separation was possible for some storms in the wetland, and in these cases, solute concentrations in the outflow can be explained by mixing of new water with previously ponded water. Where solute concentrations can’t be explained by mixing, biogeochemical processing may be happening during the storm period.

This work builds on work I presented earlier this year at the HydroEco 2017 (June) and the GSA regional meeting (March).

GSA abstract: Soils and Geomorphology of Five Reclaimed Surface Mine Sites in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

Later this month, Caytie, Garrett, and I will be representing the Watershed Hydrology Lab at the Geological Society of America Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington. Caytie will be presenting the following poster on Tuesday, October 24th in spot 257-4 in the Washington State Convention Center.

Soils and Geomorphology of Five Reclaimed Surface Mine Sites in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

Ruhm, C., Jefferson, A., Blackwood, C., Minerovic, A., and Davis, C.

Abandoned mine lands are common to human-altered landscapes. Despite the improvement of remediation techniques, the geomorphic and ecological function of historical abandoned mines persist as a concern to many regions. Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) is home to ~50 abandoned gravel, sand, and topsoil mines. After mining ceased, these sites were backfilled, compacted, and seeded. Following reclamation, rills and gullies appeared on some steep slopes within the sites. Additionally, reforestation efforts at these sites have not been successful. The causes of these failures are not well understood. Previous studies of coal mines have pointed toward altered chemical properties as a cause of reforestation failure. However, since the CVNP sites lack coal and associated tailings, further research is required to understand how the mining and reclamation affect erosion control and reforestation efforts.
Our research is investigating the geomorphology and soil quality of five of the abandoned mine sites within CVNP relative to four reference sites with similar slope and aspect, but mature forest. We aim to (1) determine the quality of the soils within the sites in comparison to the reference locations, (2) determine if the sites are currently undergoing erosion in exceedance of the reference locations, and (3) inform future reclamation projects to assist in the creation of successful practices.

We have collected ~250 soil samples from the five sites and four reference locations to analyze for grain size distribution, soil pH, concentrations of extractable Al, Ca, Fe, K, Mg, and P, and total C and N. Preliminary results indicate a marked difference in soil pH between the mined (pH 7-8) and forested reference (pH 3.6-6) sites. Measurements of infiltration capacity and bulk density are underway. Preliminary results of bulk density indicate that the density is very high (>2000 kg/m3) in the mined sites, which may be impeding plant growth and promoting overland water flow. Pressure transducers in three gullies on the mined sites indicate water flow during and following intense rainfall, and silt fences are allowing us to quantify sediment flux. Mapping of gully long profiles and cross-sections will enable us to calculate the volume of sediment removed by the gullies since reclamation occurred.

Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs. Vol. 49, No. 6
doi: 10.1130/abs/2017AM-303598

Grassy hill with trees in the background. Cloudy sky.

One of the sites that Caytie is studying, as it appeared in October 2016. The several acre site was host to invasive Phragmites reeds and a failed tree planting.

The 2016 Kent State Water and Land Symposium

A major focus for the Watershed Hydrology lab this fall has been preparing for the Kent State University Water and Land Symposium. Anne Jefferson was the symposium co-chair (with lots of help from Biology’s Chris Blackwood), and all of the lab members were involved in some way. Pedro, Laura, Hayley, and Cody presented posters. Caytie and Garrett helped with set up and were on tweeting duty. The symposium had about 400 attendees from universities, agencies, cities, non-profits, and the general public from throughout northeast Ohio. If you missed the event live or on twitter, here’s how it went down.


This year’s symposium occurred on October 5-6, 2016, and featured the theme of “Sustainability and Resilience on the Land-Water Continuum.”

Abstract: Assessing the Possibilities of the West Creek Watershed Stewardship Center Vegetated Roof

Results of our work on green infrastructure at Cleveland Metroparks Watershed Stewardship Center will make its debut at the CitiesAlive 13th Annual Green Roofs & Walls Conference, in New York, NY from October 5th to October 8th, 2015.

Assessing the Possibilities of the West Creek Watershed Stewardship Center Vegetated Roof

Jessie Hawkins, Reid Coffman, Anne Jefferson, Lauren Kinsman-Costello

The vegetated roof at the Cleveland Metroparks’ Watershed Stewardship Center is an element in a suite of green infrastructure approaches, intended to be educational components, showcasing various methods of stormwater management. This study reviews estimation and design decision making tools to understand expected performance. Field data will be used to assess the current conditions of the roof in order to make recommendations for improvement of the existing vegetated roof system.

The planting design for the roof was intended to intercept rainfall with prostrate vegetation, pre-grown in 4 inch thick trays planted with varieties of Sedum spp. and Allium senescens. Plant species composition and biomass will be assessed in regard to stormwater performance and biodiversity, allowing for an invertebrate habitat. Soil samples taken from the roof have been analyzed for infiltration and nutrient content. Nutrient concentrations will be assessed in rainwater and compared to water flowing off the roof, determining if the roof is a source of nutrients to the downstream ecosystems. Sound reduction and thermal properties will be assessed with the results used for recommendation, serving as a resource guideline for local implementation.

Ground level view of the green roof, April 2015. Photo by A. Jefferson.

Ground level view of the green roof, April 2015. Photo by A. Jefferson.

Soil moisture dynamics and their effect on bioretention performance in Northeast Ohio

Most members of the Watershed Hydrology lab chose to go to GSA this year, and we had a blast sharing our science and enjoying Vancouver and surrounding areas. But now we are sadly missing out on the American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting going on this week. Fortunately, a small piece of our work will be represented by outstanding summer REU student Sidney Bush. She’s giving a poster on Thursday afternoon in the Moscone West poster hall at H43F-1017. Here’s her abstract:

Soil moisture dynamics and their effect on bioretention performance in Northeast Ohio

Sidney A. Bush1, Anne Jefferson2, Kimberly Jarden2, Lauren E Kinsman-Costello2 and Jennifer Grieser3, (1)University of Virginia Main Campus, Charlottesville, VA, United States, (2)Kent State University Kent Campus, Kent, OH, United States, (3)Cleveland Metroparks, Parma, OH, United States

Urban impervious surfaces lead to increases in stormwater runoff. Green infrastructure, like bioretention cells, is being used to mitigate negative impacts of runoff by disconnecting impervious surfaces from storm water systems and redirecting flow to decentralized treatment areas. While bioretention soil characteristics are carefully designed, little research is available on soil moisture dynamics within the cells and how these might relate to inter-storm variability in performance. Bioretentions have been installed along a residential street in Parma, Ohio to determine the impact of green infrastructure on the West Creek watershed, a 36 km2 subwatershed of the Cuyahoga River. Bioretentions were installed in two phases (Phase I in 2013 and Phase II in 2014); design and vegetation density vary slightly between the two phases. Our research focuses on characterizing soil moisture dynamics of multiple bioretentions and assessing their impact on stormwater runoff at the street scale. Soil moisture measurements were collected in transects for eight bioretentions over the course of one summer. Vegetation indices of canopy height, percent vegetative cover, species richness and NDVI were also measured. A flow meter in the storm drain at the end of the street measured storm sewer discharge. Precipitation was recorded from a meteorological station 2 km from the research site. Soil moisture increased in response to precipitation and decreased to relatively stable conditions within 3 days following a rain event. Phase II bioretentions exhibited greater soil moisture and less vegetation than Phase I bioretentions, though the relationship between soil moisture and vegetative cover is inconclusive for bioretentions constructed in the same phase. Data from five storms suggest that pre-event soil moisture does not control the runoff-to-rainfall ratio, which we use as a measure of bioretention performance. However, discharge data indicate that hydrograph characteristics, such as lag time and peak flow, are altered relative to a control street. This analysis suggests that street-scale implementation of bioretention can reduce the impact of impervious surface on stormflows, but more information is needed to fully understand how soil moisture of the bioretentions affects inter-storm variability in performance.

Sidney’s poster is part of a session on “Water, Energy, and Society in Urban Systems” that Anne nominally helped convened. Check out all of the stimulating morning talks and awesome afternoon posters on Thursday. The rest of us are sorry to be missing it, but if *you* are in San Francisco at AGU this week, don’t miss out on all the great science in the session.

Kent State Water Symposium Tomorrow: Water Infrastructure and Rebounding Cities

Water Infrastructure and Rebounding Cities

Oct. 31, 2014

8 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Kent State University Hotel and Conference Center
215 Depeyster Street, Kent, OH 44240

Tomorrow will be a day full of inter-disciplinary talks and discussion about water and cities. David Sedlak, author of Water 4.0, will be the keynote speaker, but all of the talks promise to be informative and thought-provoking. Watershed hydrology lab students will be showing off their posters in the late afternoon.

Join us for this wonderful and stimulating event. For more info:

Where we’ll be at GSA 2014

It’s crunch time before GSA in Vancouver next week. If you want to stop by and see what we’re up to, cheer us on, or ask difficult questions, here’s where to find us.

Kimm’s poster is #205-6 in a competition session for environmental and engineering geology (T98).
She’ll be at her poster from 9-11 am and 5-6:30 pm.

Friend of the lab, Chris Rowan has a poster, #231-5, in a session on the Cascadia subduction zone (T7).
He’ll be at his poster from from 9-11 am and 5-6:30 pm.

Aly’s *talk* is at 3:45 pm in VCC West 202/203. Her talk is in a session of undergraduate research talks (T107). We’ll all be there to cheer her on!

Tuesday night the students will be at the Hydrogeology student reception and later we’ll all be at the Quaternary Geology and Geomorphology awards ceremony and reception.

Anne’s poster is #306-2, in an education session (T66).
Our isotope education collaborator, Liz Griffith, has a poster next to Anne’s at #306-3.
Anne and Liz will be at their posters from 9-11 am and 5-6:30 pm.

Krista’s poster is #309-9 in the session on groundwater-surface water interactions (T170).
Stuart’s poster is #309-10 in the same session.
They’ll be at their posters from 2-4 and 5:30-6:30 pm.

Eric’s poster is #298-8 in an acid mine drainage session (T114).
He’ll be at his poster from 2-4 and 5:30-6:30 pm.

Are you a friend of the lab? Do you have exciting science you want us to be sure to check out? Let us know in the comments!

Upper Midwest Stream Restoration Symposium

I participated in this a few years ago and it was a great experience for practitioners, regulators, and academics of stream restoration.

Let me encourage you to submit an abstract to the 2015 Upper Midwest Stream Restoration Symposium (UMSRS) to be held Feb 8-11, 2015 in Dubuque, Iowa. Organized by the regional Partnership for River Restoration and Science in the Upper Midwest (PRRSUM), the UMSRS focuses on bringing together researchers and applied practitioners to advance the dialogue of river and stream restoration in the Midwest.

The oral abstract deadline for the conference is September 26, 2014. Learn more in the attached flyer and PRRSUM brochure. If you are unable to participate, please consider signing up for our mailing list to learn about other PRRSUM activities (only 1-2 emails a month!) at

For more information:

Development of hyporheic exchange and nutrient uptake following stream restoration

Next week, the Watershed Hydrology Lab will be well represented at the CUAHSI 2014 Biennial Colloquium. We’ll be presenting four posters, so here come the abstracts…

Development of hyporheic exchange and nutrient uptake following stream restoration

Stuart Baker and Anne Jefferson

Stream restoration is a multi-million dollar industry in Ohio, with major goals of improving water quality and degraded habitat. Yet restoration often falls short of significant improvements in water quality and biodiversity. It is thus important to improve the theory and practice of stream restoration in order to achieve greater benefits per dollar spent, yet there are limited data and understanding of the physical and biogeochemical responses to restoration that constrain the potential for water quality and ecological improvements. Hyporheic exchange, the flow of water into and out of the streambed, is an important stream process that serves critical roles in naturally functioning streams, allowing for stream water to participate with the substrate in various processes. Hyporheic flowpaths can be altered by the transport of fine sediment through the stream bed and are thus susceptible to changes in sediment regime and hydraulics, as well as the changes wrought by construction of a restoration project. The goal of this research is to determine the effectiveness of restoration in enhancing hyporheic flow and associated biogeochemical processes to improve water quality. Preliminary results from Kelsey Creek, OH, a second-order stream restored in August 2013, show a decrease in average hydraulic conductivity but an increase in heterogeneity from pre-restoration (geometric mean 8.47×10-5 m/s, range 1.18×10-6-1.19×10-3) to post-restoration (geometric mean 4.41×10-5 m/s, range 2.67×10-5-3.05×10-4) in piezometer nests through large constructed riffle structures. These piezometers also indicate dominance of downwelling throughout riffle structures with only isolated locations of upwelling. Transient storage and hyporheic exchange will be measured with resazurin injections for comparison between pre-restoration and post-restoration, and nutrient injections of NH4Cl at time points following the restoration will compare the nitrogen uptake rates of the restored reach to an unrestored reach downstream. Additional sites are planned for study to include restoration projects of different ages to examine the development of hyporheic exchange and biogeochemistry after completion of restoration projects.