Plant and Soil

, Volume 430, Issue 1–2, pp 263–276 | Cite as

Sedum root foraging in layered green roof substrates

  • Peng Ji
  • Arne Sæbø
  • Virginia Stovin
  • Hans Martin HanslinEmail author
Regular Article


Background and aims

Layered profiles of designed soils may provide long-term benefits for green roofs, provided the vegetation can exploit resources in the different layers. We aimed to quantify Sedum root foraging for water and nutrients in designed soils of different texture and layering.


In a controlled pot experiment we quantified the root foraging ability of the species Sedum album (L.) and S. rupestre (L.) in response to substrate structure (fine, coarse, layered or mixed), vertical fertiliser placement (top or bottom half of pot) and watering (5, 10 or 20 mm week−1).


Water availability was the main driver of plant growth, followed by substrate structure, while fertiliser placement only had marginal effects on plant growth. Root foraging ability was low to moderate, as also reflected in the low proportion of biomass allocated to roots (5–13%). Increased watering reduced the proportion of root length and root biomass in deeper layers.


Both S. album and S. rupestre had a low ability to exploit water and nutrients by precise root foraging in substrates of different texture and layering. Allocation of biomass to roots was low and showed limited flexibility even under water-deficient conditions.


Green roof Sedum Vegetation Root foraging Substrate texture and layering 



This study was funded by the Regional research fund for Western Norway (project 239039), a strategic institutional programme to the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (NIBIO) through the Research Council of Norway (project 248349/F40), the National Natural Science Foundation of the People’s Republic of China (No. 31401892) and the Doctoral Foundation of Heilongjiang Bayi Agricultural University (xdb2013-02).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest. Funding parties had no role in planning, conducting or publishing the study.

Supplementary material

11104_2018_3729_MOESM1_ESM.docx (2.4 mb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 2489 kb)


  1. Boivin MA, Lamy MP, Gosselin A, Dansereau B (2001) Effect of artificial substrate depth on freezing injury of six herbaceous perennials grown in a green roof system. HortTechnology 11:409–412Google Scholar
  2. Comas LH, Becker SR, Cruz VM, Byrne PF, Dierig DA (2013) Root traits contributing to plant productivity under drought. Front Plant Sci 4:442. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  3. Durhman AK, Rowe DB, Rugh CL (2007) Effect of substrate depth on initial growth, coverage, and survival of 25 succulent green roof plant taxa. HortScience 42:588–595Google Scholar
  4. Getter KL, Rowe DB (2008) Media depth influences Sedum green roof establishment. Urban Ecosyst 11:361–372CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Getter KL, Rowe DB, Robertson GP, Cregg BM, Andresen JA (2009) Carbon sequestration potential of extensive green roofs. Environ Sci Technol 43:7564–7570CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Grime JP (2007) The scale–precision trade-off in spacial resource foraging by plants: restoring perspective. Ann Bot 99:1017–1021CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  7. Grime JP, Mackey JML (2002) The role of plasticity in resource capture by plants. Evol Ecol 16:299–307CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Hodge A (2009) Root decisions. Plant Cell Environ 32:628–640CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Hodgson JG, Wilson PJ, Hunt R, Grime JP, Thompson K (1999) Allocating C-S-R plant functional types: a soft approach to a hard problem. Oikos 85:282–294CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Jansen C, van de Steeg HM, de Kroon H (2005) Investigating a trade-off in root morphological responses to a heterogeneous nutrient supply and to flooding. Funct Ecol 19:952–960CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Johannessen BG, Hanslin HM, Muthanna TM (2017) Green roof performance potential in cold and wet regions. Ecol Eng 106:436–447CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Kembel SW, Cahill JF Jr (2005) Plant phenotypic plasticity belowground: a phylogenetic perspective on root foraging trade-offs. Am Nat 166:216–230CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Kuoppamäki K, Lehvävirta S (2016) Mitigating nutrient leaching from green roofs with biochar. Landsc Urban Plan 152:39–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Liu F, Tang Y, Du R, Yang H, Wu Q, Qiu R (2010) Root foraging for zinc and cadmium requirement in the Zn/cd hyperaccumulator plant Sedum alfredii. Plant Soil 327:365–375CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Lu J, Yuan JG, Yang JZ, Yang ZY (2014) Responses of morphology and drought tolerance of Sedum lineare to watering regime in green roof system: a root perspective. Urban For Urban Green 13:682–688CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. MacIvor JS, Margolis L, Puncher CL, Matthews BJC (2013) Decoupling factors affecting plant diversity and cover on extensive green roofs. J Environ Manag 130:297–305CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. McAdam SAM, Brodribb TJ, Ross JJ (2016) Shoot-derived abscisic acid promotes root growth. Plant Cell Environ 39:652–659CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Monterusso MA, Rowe DB, Rugh CL (2005) Establishment and persistence of Sedum spp. and native taxa for green roof applications. Hortscience 40:391–396Google Scholar
  19. Mort ME, Soltis DE, Soltis PS, Francisco-Ortega J, Santos-Guerra A (2001) Phylogenetic relationships and evolution of Crassulaceae inferred from matK sequence data. Am J Bot 88:76–91CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Nagase A, Dunnett N (2010) Drought tolerance in different vegetation types for extensive green roofs: effects of watering and diversity. Landsc Urban Plan 97:318–327CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Nagase A, Dunnett N (2011) The relationship between percentage of organic matter in substrate and plant growth in extensive green roofs. Landsc Urban Plan 103:230–236CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Negin B, Moshelion M (2016) The evolution of the role of ABA in the regulation of water-use efficiency: from biochemical mechanisms to stomatal conductance. Plant Sci 251:82–89CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Nobel PS, Huang B (1992) Hydraulic and structural changes for lateral roots of two desert succulents in response to soil drying and rewetting. Int J Plant Sci 153:S163–S170CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Nobel PS, North GB (1996) Features of Roots of CAM Plants. In: Winter K, Smith JAC (eds) Crassulacean Acid Metabolism. Ecological Studies (Analysis and Synthesis), vol 114. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, p 266–280Google Scholar
  25. North GB, Nobel PS (1998) Water uptake and structural plasticity along roots of a desert succulent during prolonged drought. Plant Cell Environ 21:705–713CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Olejnik S, Algina J (2003) Generalized eta and omega squared statistics: measures of effect size for some common research designs. Psychol Methods 8:434–447CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Ondoño S, Martínez-Sanchez JJ, Moreno JL (2016) The composition and depth of green roof substrates affect the growth of Silene vulgaris and Lagurus ovatus species and the C and N sequestration under two irrigation conditions. J Environ Manag 166:330–340CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Poorter H, Niklas KJ, Reich PB, Oleksyn J, Poot P, Mommer L (2012a) Biomass allocation to leaves, stems and roots: meta-analyses of interspecific variation and environmental control. New Phytol 193:30–50CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Poorter H, Bühler J, van Dusschoten D, Climent J, Postma JA (2012b) Pot size matters: a meta-analysis of the effects of rooting volume on plant growth. Funct Plant Biol 39:839–850CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Raimondo F, Trifilò P, LoGullo MA, Andri S, Savi T, Nardini A (2015) Plant performance on Mediterranean green roofs: interaction of species-specific hydraulic strategies and substrate water relations. AoB Plants 7:plv007. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  31. Reyes R, Bustamante W, Gironás J, Pasténa PA, Rojas V, Suárez F, Vera S, Victorero F, Bonillaa CA (2016) Effect of substrate depth and roof layers on green roof temperature and water requirements in a semi-arid climate. Ecol Eng 97:624–632CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Sandoval V, Bonilla CA, Gironás J, Vera S, Victorero F, Bustamante W, Rojas V, Leiva E, Pastén P, Suarez F (2017) Porous media characterization to simulate water and heat transport through green roof substrates. Vadose Zone J 16.
  33. Savi T, Marin M, Boldrin D, Incerti G, Andri S, Nardini A (2014) Green roofs for a drier world: effects of hydrogel amendment on substrate and plant water status. Sci Total Environ 490:467–476CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Savi T, Dalborgo A, Love VL, Andri S, Tretiach M, Nardini A (2016) Drought versus heat: what's the major constraint on Mediterranean green roof plants? Sci Total Environ 566-567:753–760CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Sayed OH, Earnshaw MJ, Cooper M (1994) Growth, water relations, and CAM induction in Sedum album in response to water stress. Biol Plant 36:383–388CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Schachtman DP, Goodger JQD (2008) Chemical root to shoot signalling under drought. Trends Plant Sci 13:281–287CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Schenk HJ, Jackson RB (2002) Rooting depths, lateral root spreads and below-ground/above-ground allometries of plants in water-limited ecosystems. J Ecol 90:480–494CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Schwinning S, Ehleringer JR (2001) Water use trade-offs and optimal adaptations to pulse-driven arid ecosystems. J Ecol 89:464–480CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Thuring CE, Berghage RD, Beattie DJ (2010) Green roof plant responses to different substrate types and depths under various drought conditions. HortTechnology 20:395–401Google Scholar
  40. Valladares F, Gianoli E, Gómez JM (2007) Ecological limits to plant phenotypic plasticity. New Phytol 176:749–763CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. van Ham RCHJ, 't Hart H (1998) Phylogenetic relationships in the Crassulaceae inferred from chloroplast DNA restriction-site variation. Am J Bot 85:123–134Google Scholar
  42. von Willert DJ, Eller BM, Werger MJA, Brinckmann E, Ihlenfeldt HD (1991) Life strategies of succulents in deserts. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  43. Wang L, de Kroon H, Smits AJM (2007) Combined effects of partial root drying and patchy fertilizer placement on nutrient acquisition and growth of oilseed rape. Plant Soil 295:207–216CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Wang X, Tian Y, Zhao X (2017) The influence of dual-substrate-layer extensive green roofs on rainwater runoff quantity and quality. Sci Total Environ 592:465–476CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Weiser M, Koubek T, Herben T (2016) Root foraging performance and life-history traits. Front Plant Sci 7:779. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  46. Whittinghill LJ, Rowe DB, Schutzki R, Cregg BM (2014) Quantifying carbon sequestration of various green roof and ornamental landscape systems. Landsc Urban Plan 123:41–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Winter K, Holtum JAM (2014) Facultative crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) plants: powerful tools for unravelling the functional elements of CAM photosynthesis. J Exp Bot 65:3425–3441CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Agronomy CollegeHeilongjiang Bayi Agricultural UniversityDaqingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Department of Urban Greening and Environmental EngineeringNorwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (Nibio)ÅsNorway
  3. 3.Department of Civil and Structural EngineeringUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldUK

Personalised recommendations