Substrate microorganisms can be an ideal tool for improving green roof sustainability

Hongqing Liu, Fanhua Kong, Haiwei Yin, Lauren M. Cook, Jing Huang, Itamar M. Lensky, Taotao Tan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Green roof (GR) ecosystems function as a result of a series of complex interactions between plants and substrates, which are poorly understood. This ambiguity hinders the scientific application of GRs to tackle urban eco-environmental problems. The goal of this study was to clarify the response of plants to various abiotic and biotic characteristics of GR substrates, including physical properties, nutrients, and microbes. We systematically analyzed the statistical association between 43 indicators of plant and substrate characteristics using four GR substrates and one common plant type (Sedum lineare Thunb) in a subtropical monsoon climate. Height, coverage, root-shoot ratio, total carbon, total nitrogen, total phosphorus, total potassium, root vitality, and malondialdehyde levels were considered sensitive indicators of the plant's response to the substrate. Substrate nutrients and microbial biomass were most closely associated with the plant response, whereas the material properties of the substrate could indirectly affect plant growth by influencing substrate microbes and plant nutrients. Our results suggest that when optimizing GR substrates for plant responses, it is necessary to respect the plants and account for the abiotic and biotic relationships. It may be possible to manage GR performance in a more scientific and effective manner through the control of substrate microorganisms.

Original languageEnglish
Article number128179
JournalUrban Forestry and Urban Greening
StatePublished - Jan 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Elsevier GmbH


This research was supported by the National Key R&D Program of China (No. 2017YFE0196000 ), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. 51878328 and 32171571 ) and the Global Engagement for Strategic Partnership project of Nanjing University .

FundersFunder number
National Natural Science Foundation of China32171571, 51878328
Nanjing University
National Key Research and Development Program of China2017YFE0196000


    • Green roofs
    • Nature-based solutions
    • Partial Least Squares Path Modeling
    • Substrate
    • Sustainability
    • Urban Greening


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