Plant Biodiversity on Green Roofs

  • Susan C. Cook-PattonEmail author
Part of the Ecological Studies book series (ECOLSTUD, volume 223)


Experimentation in grasslands and other ecosystems suggest that diverse plant communities grow more vigorously than simple communities, support a more robust animal community, and better resist stressors like disease, herbivory, and invasion. Despite the potential advantages of plant diversity on green roofs, many green roof communities consist of a few hardy species that are known to tolerate the harsh conditions on green roofs. Moreover, experimental tests of diversity on green roofs are infrequent. I therefore review the ecological literature in the context of green roof design to suggest ways to increase plant diversity on green roofs and hypothesize how increasing diversity might improve green roof function. Although it is unlikely that the complex, ecological dynamics of natural ecosystems will map directly onto the simplified, highly engineered ecosystem of a green roof, I argue that the lessons learned from decades of ecological experimentation can be adapted to green roof design to improve long-term plant performance and enhance the services provided by green roofs to urban communities. Ultimately, diversity experiments on green roofs will be required to prove whether similar ecological dynamics can exist in natural ecosystems and on rooftops, and whether or not the parallels I draw are justified. Therefore I end this chapter with a research agenda for the future, suggesting experiments that would greatly enhance our understanding of green roofs as ecosystems.


Genotypic richness Species richness Functional group diversity Functional trait diversity Phylogenetic diversity Habitat Ecosystem stability Plant-animal interactions 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Forest Ecology LabSmithsonian Environmental Research CenterEdgewaterUSA

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