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Trait-Based Guidance for Stormwater Pond Plantings

What are Stormwater Ponds:
Stormwater ponds are common features of urban landscapes. Recently, members of the SHED Group estimated over 95,000 stormwater ponds in Florida. These human-made ecosystems serve a very important function. They capture stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces of urban and urbanizing landscapes. By doing so, they help to protect Florida’s natural water bodies by limiting particulates and pollutants from entering these water bodies.

Benefits and Challenges of Stormwater Pond Plantings:
Stormwater ponds can also serve as community amenities. They are often placed throughout landscapes with a goal of community beautification. Planting stormwater ponds can help to achieve this goal, and provide a suite of other environmental benefits, including wildlife habitat and improved water quality. However, selecting plant species for stormwater pond plantings is not an easy task. Findings suitable species for these ecosystems can be challenging. Having information on plant species traits would be one way to improve the success of stormwater pond planting projects.

Stormwater pond prior to planting. Note ongoing bank erosion. Dr. Eban Bean and Dr. Mary Lusk in photo.

Stormwater pond post planting. Likely improvements include bank stabilization and enhanced water quality.

A New Tool:
Members of the SHED Group (Dr. Eban Bean, Gisele Nighswander, Kayla Hess, Mary Szoka, and myself) along with Dr. Gail Hansen developed a tool to help with plant selection—an open access traits database. This database is located at the Institutional Repository at the University of Florida. This Database contains 82 plant species that tend to be commercially available and that are suitable for stormwater pond plantings. The database identifies the planting zone (bank top, slope, water’s edge, offshore) in which these species can grow. It also contains five different tables. Three tables list 31 different traits pertaining to the plants’ aesthetics, functions, and habitats. That is the plants’ appearances, affects or responses to the environment, or environmental conditions under which they grow. The other two tables are a table defining the traits (metadata) and a table that lists the literature from where we found our data. We designed this database to help people identify plants that are not only attractive, but that will also provide other benefits and survive under specific conditions for particular planting projects. In doing so, we hope this database helps users to make the best choices in plant species selection. With these choices, we hope that this database also helps to maximize the benefits that stormwater ponds can provide to urban and residential landscapes.

Thanks to all who have read this blog. The authors of our traits database welcome suggestions and comments on how to improve it.