With geomorphology and biology, hydrology constrains the stocks and fluxes of organic and inorganic materials and energy in natural systems and is one of the key determinants of terrestrial ecosystem function (NRC 2005). In particular, the spatial and temporal characteristics of the soil moisture field plays a crucial role in biogeochemical cycling and all in physiological plant processes (e.g. growth and photosynthesis), which in turn determine evapotranspirative fluxes of moisture to the atmosphere, primary productivity, nutrient dynamics, and a host of other ecologically significant processes (Rodriguez-Iturbe 2000). Because of the many functional interrelationships that exist between hydrology, and various biological, ecological, biogeochemical, and climate patterns and processes, water management is thus central to forging a new path towards sustainable development. However, while human modification of the hydrologic cycle is a known driver of ecosystem change (NRC 2005, Foley et al 2005, MES 2005), explicit understanding of the relationship between the hydrologic functions of a particular type of ecosystem and its ability to provide specific ecosystem goods and services is still lacking (NRC 2005), especially in urban areas, which now house more than half of the world’s population.
At SWRE, our interest is in better documenting how functioning urban ecosystems work, so that practitioners can more effectively replicate these conditions in new and restored sites. Our goal is to translate knowledge acquired at ecological reference sites into informed engineering designs. Most of our work has been in mid-Atlantic urban wetlands, forests, parks, and gardens.