Green roofs are increasingly being considered a promising engineered ecosystem for reducing stormwater runoff. Plants are a critical component of green roofs and it has been suggested that plants with high water use after rainfall, but which are also drought tolerant, can improve rainfall retention on green roofs. However, there is little evidence to show how plants with different water use strategies will affect green roof retention performance, either in monocultures or in mixed plantings. This study tested how monocultures and a mixture of herbaceous species (Dianella admixta, Lomandra longifolia and Stypandra glauca) affected rainfall retention on green roofs. These species were chosen based on their water use strategies and compared with a commonly used succulent species (Sedum pachyphyllum) with conservative water use. We measured retention performance for 67 rainfall events, quantifying all components of the water balance. We also compared growth for species in monocultures and mixtures. We found that monocultures of L. longifolia had the greatest stormwater retention and ET. Although S. glauca has a similar water use strategy to D. admixta, it had the lowest stormwater retention and ET. In both the mixture and as a monoculture, S. glauca created preferential flow pathways, resulting in lower substrate water contents which reduced ET and therefore rainfall retention. This species also dominated performance of the mixture, such that the mixture had lower ET and retention than all monocultures (except S. glauca). We suggest that root traits and their interaction with substrates should be considered alongside water use strategies for rainfall retention on green roofs.
Science of the Total Environment – Elsevier
Published: Jun 1, 2018
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