delware environmental institute

UDaily: UD doctoral candidate investigates how rainwater travels in urban forests

UDaily: UD doctoral candidate investigates how rainwater travels in urban forests

Forests cover approximately 30 percent of the Earth’s surface. They play an important role in purifying air, preventing soil erosion and maintaining proper balance in water resources. How rain makes its way into a forest’s soil can affect soil chemistry, groundwater recharge and, ultimately, forest health and productivity.

Asia Dowtin, a doctoral candidate in the University of Delaware Department of Geography’s ecohydrology group, led by professor Delphis Levia, is studying how water and nutrients are transported from the tree canopy to the soil below.

She is particularly interested in how stemflow — water that travels down tree trunks or plant stems — is generated in urban forests like those located in the city of Wilmington’s Rockford Park, Delaware Art Museum and Alapocas Run State Park.

Urban areas contain high concentrations of impervious surfaces such as rooftops, roads and concrete that prevent rainwater from permeating into the soil. During rainstorms, this can cause rainwater to pool on surfaces leading to flash flooding, combined sewer overflow and overall water management headaches for city dwellers and city water management workers.