Importance of different components of green roof substrate on plant growth and physiological performance

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Young, TM ; Phoenix, GK ; Cameron, DD ; Sorrill, J ; Edwards, T (2014)
  • Publisher: Elsevier
  • Journal: Urban Forestry & Urban Greening (issn: 1618-8667, vol: 13, pp: 507-516)
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.1016/j.ufug.2014.04.007
  • Subject: Ecology | Forestry | Soil Science
    mesheuropmc: food and beverages | fungi

Green roof substrate is arguably the most important element of a green roof, providing water, nutrients and physical support to plants. Despite this there has been a lack of research into the role that different substrate components have on green roof plant growth and physiological performance.\ud \ud To address this, we assessed the importance of three green roof substrate components (organic matter type, brick particle size and water absorbent additive) for plant growth and plant physiological performance. Lolium perenne (Ryegrass) was grown in eight substrates in a controlled greenhouse environment with a factorial design in composition of (i) small or large brick, (ii) conifer bark or green waste compost organic matter, and (iii) presence/absence of polyacrylamide water absorbent gel (‘SwellGel™’).\ud \ud We found that large brick substrates had a lower water holding capacity than small brick (−35%), which led to decreased shoot growth (−17%) and increased root:shoot ratio (+16%). Green waste compost increased shoot and root growth (+32% and +13%) shoot nitrogen concentration and chlorophyll content (20% and 57%), and decreased root:shoot ratio (−15%) compared to bark. The addition of swell gel increased substrate water holding capacity (+24%), which increased shoot growth (+8%). Total evapotranspiration (a proxy for potential cooling) was increased by greater shoot biomass and substrate water holding capacity. Overall, this study provides one of the first quantitative assessments of the relative importance of commonly used green roof substrate components. It is clear that substrate composition should be considered carefully when designing green roofs, and substrate composition can be tailored for green roof service provision.
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