Greenspace Loss and Infiltration Rate Changes
Investigators: Paul Bierman, Beverley Wemple, Breck Bowden

The City of Burlington, particularly the neighborhood surrounding the University of Vermont campus, has undergone rapid land-use changes over the past several decades. Many of these changes were driven by increasing enrollments at the University and the conversion of single-family homes to multi-unit student apartments. With the students have come the cars and the need for parking. Despite zoning controls enacted in 1973, unpermitted and wide-spread conversion of green space to parking areas has continued unabated.

Our work quantifies these land-use changes and the resulting hydrologic effects considering both the increase in impermeable surfaces over time and the hydrologic response of lawns to parking. The project has been driven predominately by students and has involved a large component of service learning. We find in some near-university neighborhoods that more than half the green space has been converted to parking and that run-off has increased dramatically. We also find that simple remediation measures including fencing, tilling, and compost addition can rapidly restore the ability of the soil to infiltrate rainfall.

This research has been supported by the University of Vermont and NSF.

Relevant Publications:

  • Nichols, K.K., Bierman, P.R., Persico, L., Bosley, A., Melillo, P., and Kurfis, J. (2003) Quantifying land use and urban run off changes through service learning hydrology projects. Journal of Geoscience Education, v. 51, n. 4, p.365-372.
  • Kurfis, J., Bierman, P., Nichols, K., Persico, L., Melillo, P. (2001) Green university town succumbs to blacktop: Quantifying the increase in impermeable surfaces and runoff through time, 32(7), A-179 Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs (National)