Soil, climate, and landscape drivers of base cation concentrations in green stormwater infrastructure soils

Duyen Lam, Kun Zhang, Anthony J. Parolari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Deicing practices and infrastructure weathering can impact plants, soil, and water quality through the input and transport of base cations. Base cation accumulation in green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) soils has the potential to decrease soil infiltration rates and plant water uptake or to promote leaching of metals and nutrients. To understand base cation retention in GSI soils and its drivers, we sampled 14 GSI soils of different age, contributing areas, and infiltration areas, across 3 years. We hypothesized that soil, climate, and landscape drivers explain the spatial and temporal variability of GSI soil base cation concentrations. Sodium (Na), Calcium (Ca), and Magnesium (Mg) concentrations in GSI soils were higher than in reference soils, while Ca and Mg were similar to an urban floodplain soil. Neither the contributing area, contributing impervious area, nor their ratios to infiltration area predicted base cation concentrations. Age predicted the spatial variability of Potassium (K) concentrations. Ca and Mg were moderately predicted by sand and silt, while clay predicted Mg, and sand predicted K. However, no soil characteristics predicted Na concentrations. A subset of sites had elevated Na in Fall 2019, which followed a winter with many freezing events and higher-than-average deicer salt application. K in sites with elevated Na was lower than in non-elevated sites, suggesting that transient spikes of Na driven by deicer salt decreased the ability of GSI soils to accumulate K. These findings demonstrate the large variability of GSI soil base cation concentrations and the relative importance of soil, climate, and landscape drivers of base cation dynamics. High variability in GSI soil data is commonly observed and further research is needed to reduce uncertainties for modeling studies and design. Improved understanding of how GSI soil properties evolve over time, and their relation to GSI performance, will benefit GSI design and maintenance practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number169907
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Mar 1 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 Elsevier B.V.


  • Base cations
  • Ecohydrology
  • Green infrastructure
  • Soil chemistry
  • Stormwater management

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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