Effects of Rock Covering on Underlying Engineered Media in Bioretention Practices in Middle Tennessee, USA
Author: Blue Curry, Andrea Ludwig, and Michael Essington,
Bioretention practices have become a common way to protect natural waterways in urban and suburban landscapes across the United States. However, optimal design, implementation, operation, and maintenance are still in need of study. A field survey of 52 bioretention practices was conducted in Davidson County, Tennessee, to address research questions related to operation and maintenance. A suite of site conditions were documented, such as size, signs of erosion, and dominant surface cover. Samples were collected from the surface of the engineered media layer and analyzed for organic matter content and bulk density. Vegetation was described in terms of dominant species and canopy cover. On average, the organic matter content of media under plant-based mulch cover was significantly greater than that under rock cover (p = 0.002). Bulk density of the surface media is strongly and inversely correlated to organic matter content; bulk density did not generally vary with bioretention area age and was highly variable within treatments. On average, the bulk density of the media under the plant-based mulch cover was significantly less than that under the rock cover. Media under the composite treatments had similar bulk density to both the plant-based mulch (p = 0.233) and the rock covers (p = 0.132). Plant canopy did not surpass 70% in practices with bulk density values above 1.55 g/cm3. These results suggest that consideration should be made regarding the tradeoffs between utilizing rock coverings and potential for plant establishment impacts.
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