Skip to main content

Nutrient Cycling in Green Roof Ecosystems

  • Chapter
  • First Online:
Green Roof Ecosystems

Part of the book series: Ecological Studies ((ECOLSTUD,volume 223))

Abstract

In this chapter we consider the cycling of Carbon (C), Nitrogen (N) and Phosphorus (P) in green roof ecosystems. The focus is placed primarily on N and P because these are the nutrients most often limiting to plant growth in terrestrial ecosystems, and because leaching of these elements to downstream aquatic ecosystems is a concern due to their potential to contribute to eutrophication. Extensive green roofs are commonly sources of phosphorus and dissolved organic carbon in runoff, while they may be either a source or a sink for nitrogen. Plant communities, substrate characteristics, substrate depth, and roof age all play a role in regulating nutrient export. Seasonal variation in runoff nutrient concentrations suggests the importance of temperature and light-mediated processes. Nitrogen leaching may drop off rapidly with the age of the ecosystem and vary with new inputs (atmospheric deposition of N, new fertilizer additions), while roofs leach out P for years or decades under current construction regimes, likely resulting from mineralization of P-rich organic matter in the roof substrate. Conceptual models of nutrient cycling developed from natural terrestrial ecosystems provide a useful starting point for interpreting the important nutrient cycling processes on green roofs. However, the engineered nature of green roof ecosystems, often with a high-nutrient substrate coupled to plants adapted to low-nutrient, extreme environments, gives rise to unique characteristics. There is still little known of the dynamics of important processes for recycling of nutrients within green roof ecosystems, and more studies which include modeling, full roof-scale experiments, and long-term monitoring are needed for improved understanding of these ecosystems.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

Chapter
USD 29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
eBook
USD 129.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as EPUB and PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Hardcover Book
USD 169.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Durable hardcover edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Institutional subscriptions

Similar content being viewed by others

References

  • Aber J, Melillo J (2001) Terrestrial ecosystems. Harcourt Academic Press, San Diego

    Google Scholar 

  • Aitkenhead-Peterson J, Dvorak B, Voider A, Stanley N (2011) Chemistry of growth medium and leachate from green roof systems in south-central Texas. Urban Ecosyst 14(1):17–33

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Baker L, Hope D, Xu Y, Edmonds J, Lauver L (2001) Nitrogen balance for the Central Arizona-Phoenix (CAP) ecosystem. Ecosystems 4(6):582–602

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Bateman E, Baggs E (2005) Contributions of nitrification and denitrification to N2O emissions from soils at different water-filled pore space. Biol Fertil Soils 41(6):379–388

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Beck D, Johnson G, Spolek G (2011) Amending greenroof soil with biochar to affect runoff water quantity and quality. Environ Pollut 159(8–9):2111–2118

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Berghage R, Beattie D, Jarrett A, Thuring C, Razei F, O’Connor T (2009) Green roofs for stormwater runoff control. Cincinnati, OH. EPA/600/R-09/026

    Google Scholar 

  • Berndtsson J (2010) Green roof performance towards management of runoff water quantity and quality: A review. Ecological Engineering 36:351–360

    Google Scholar 

  • Berndtsson J, Emilsson T, Bengtsson L (2006) The influence of extensive vegetated roofs on runoff water quality. Sci Total Environ 355(1–3):48–63

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Berndtsson J, Bengtsson L, Jinno K (2008) First flush effect from vegetated roofs during simulated rain events. Hydrol Res 39(3):171–179

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Berndtsson J, Bengtsson L, Jinno K (2009) Runoff water quality from intensive and extensive vegetated roofs. Ecol Eng 35(3):369–380

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Buffam I, Mitchell M, Durtsche RD (Submitted) Seasonal variation in green roof runoff water quality

    Google Scholar 

  • Carpenter, S (1998), The need for large-scale experiments to assess and predict the response of ecosystems to perturbation. In: Pace ML, Groffman PM (eds) Successes, Limitations, and Frontiers in Ecosystem Science. Springer, New York, pp 287–312

    Google Scholar 

  • Carpenter S, Caraco N, Correll D, Howarth R, Sharpley A, Smith V (1998) Nonpoint pollution of surface waters with phosphorus and nitrogen. Ecol Appl 8(3):559–568

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Chapin F, Shaver G, Kedrowski R (1986) Environmental controls over carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus fractions in Eriophorum-vaginatum in Alaskan tussock tundra. J Ecol 74(1):167–195

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Chapin F, Bliss L, Bledsoe L (1991) Environmental regulation of nitrogen fixation in a high arctic lowland ecosystem. Can J Bot 69:2744–2755

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Chapin F, Woodwell G, Randerson J, Rastetter E, Lovett G, Baldocchi D, Clark D, Harmon M, Schimel D, Valentini R, Wirth C, Aber J, Cole J, Goulden M, Harden J, Heimann M, Howarth R, Matson P, McGuire A, Melillo J, H Mooney, Neff J, Houghton R, Pace M, Ryan M, Running S, Sala O, Schlesinger W, Schulze E (2006) Reconciling carbon-cycle concepts, terminology, and methods. Ecosystems 9(7):1041–1050

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Chapin F, Matson P, Vitousek P (2011) Fundamentals of terrestrial ecosystem ecology. Springer, New York

    Google Scholar 

  • Clark M, Zheng Y (2013) Plant nutrition requirements for an installed Sedum−vegetated green roof module system:effects of fertilizer rate and type on plant growth and leachate nutrient content. HortScience 48:1173–1180

    Google Scholar 

  • Crews T (1999) The presence of nitrogen fixing legumes in terrestrial communities: evolutionary vs ecological considerations. Biogeochemistry 46(1–3):233–246

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Dahlgren R (1998) Effects of forest harvest on stream-water quality and nitrogen cycling in the Caspar Creek Watershed. USDA Forest Service Gen Tech Rep PSW-GTR 168:45–53

    Google Scholar 

  • Emilsson T, Berndtsson J, Mattsson J, Rolf K (2007) Effect of using conventional and controlled release fertiliser on nutrient runoff from various vegetated roof systems. Ecol Eng 29(3):260–271

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • FLL (2008) Guidelines for the planning, construction, and maintenance of green roofing- green roofing guideline. Forschungsgesellschaft Landschaftsentwicklung Landschaftsbau, Bonn

    Google Scholar 

  • Galloway J, Aber J, Erisman J, Seitzinger S, Howarth R, Cowling E, Cosby B (2003) The nitrogen cascade. Bioscience 53(4):341–356

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gaumont-Guay D, Halsall R (2013) What’s the carbon sequestration potential in green roofs? 11th Annual Cities Alive Green Roof and Wall Conference, San Francisco, CA

    Google Scholar 

  • Getter K, Rowe D, Andresen J (2007) Quantifying the effect of slope on extensive green roof stormwater retention. Ecol Eng 31(4):225–231

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Getter K, Rowe D, Robertson G, Cregg B, Andresen J (2009) Carbon sequestration potential of extensive green roofs. Environ Sci Technol 43(19):7564–7570

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Gregoire B, Clausen J (2011) Effect of a modular extensive green roof on stormwater runoff and water quality. Ecol Eng 37(6):963–969

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Groffman P, Pouyat R (2009) Methane uptake in urban forests and lawns. Environ Sci Technol 43(14):5229–5235

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Groffman P, Gold A, Jacinthe P (1998) Nitrous oxide production in riparian zones and groundwater. Nutr Cycl Agroecosyst 52(2–3):179–186

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Hathaway A, Hunt W, Jennings G (2008) A field study of green roof hydrologic and water quality performance. Trans Asabe 51(1):37–44

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Johnson C (2014) Role of plant species richness on the quantity and quality of stormwater runoff in green roof plots. M.S. Thesis, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cincinnati

    Google Scholar 

  • Jorgensen S (ed) (2011) Handbook of ecological models used in ecosystem and environmental management. Taylor and Francis, Boca Raton

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Köhler M, Poll PH (2010) Long-term performance of selected old Berlin green roofs in comparison to younger extensive green roofs in Berlin. Ecol Eng 36:722–729

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Köhler M, Schmidt M, Grimme FW, Laar M, Assunção Paiva VL, Tavares S (2002) Green roofs in temperate climates and in the hot-humid tropics-far beyond the aesthetics. Environ Manage Health 13(4):382–391

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lal R (2005) Forest soils and carbon sequestration. Forest Ecol Manage 220:242–258

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Likens G, Bormann F, Pierce R, Eaton J, Johnson N (1977) Biogeochemistry of a forested ecosystem. Springer-Verlag, New York

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Marschner B, Kalbitz K (2003) Controls of bioavailability and biodegradability of dissolved organic matter in soils. Geoderma 113:211–235

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • McGuire K, Payne S, Palmer M, Gillikin C, Keefe D, Kim S, Gedallovich S, Discenza J, Rangamannar R, Koshner J, Massmann A, Orazi G, Essene A, Leff J, Fierer N (2013) Digging the New York City Skyline: soil fungal communities in green roofs and city parks. PLoS One 8(3):e58020

    Article  CAS  PubMed Central  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Mendez C, Klenzendorf J, Afshar B, Simmons M, Barrett M, Kinney K, Kirisits M (2011) The effect of roofing material on the quality of harvested rainwater. Water Res 45(5):2049–2059

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Metcalf and Eddy (1991) Wastewater engineering: treatment, disposal, and reuse. McGraw-Hill, New York

    Google Scholar 

  • Monterusso M, Rowe D, Rugh C, Russell D (2004) Runoff water quantity and quality from green roof systems. Expanding roles for horticulture in improving human well-being and life quality. Acta Hortic 639:369–376

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Mulholland P (2003) Large-scale patterns in dissolved organic carbon concentration, flux, and sources. In: Findlay S, Sinsabaugh R (eds) Aquatic ecosystems: interactivity of dissolved organic matter. Academic Press/Elsevier Science, San Diego, pp 139–159

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Oberndorfer E, Lundholm J, Bass B, Coffman R, Doshi H, Dunnett N, Gaffin S, Koehler M, Liu K, Rowe B (2007) Green roofs as urban ecosystems: ecological structures, functions, and services. Bioscience 57(10):823–833

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Paul E, Clark F (1996) Soil microbiology and biochemistry, 2nd edn. Academic Press, San Diego

    Google Scholar 

  • Pett-Ridge J (2009) Contributions of dust to phosphorus cycling in tropical forests of the Luquillo Mountains, Puerto Rico. Biogeochemistry 94(1):63–80

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Rowe D (2011) Green roofs as a means of pollution abatement. Environ Pollut 159(8–9):2100–2110

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Saugier B, Roy J, Mooney H (2001) Estimations of global terrestrial productivity: converging toward a single number? In: Roy J, Saugier B, Mooney H (eds) Terrestrial global productivity. Academic Press, San Diego, pp 543–557

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Schrader S, Böning M (2006) Soil formation on green roofs and its contribution to urban biodiversity with emphasis on Collembolans. Pedobiologia 50:347–356

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Seidl M, Gromaire M, Saad M, De Gouvello B (2013) Effect of substrate depth and rain-event history on the pollutant abatement of green roofs. Environ Pollut 183:195–203

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Shaver G, Melillo J (1984) Nutrient budgets of marsh plants- efficiency concepts and relation to availability. Ecology 65(5):1491–1510

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Smith S, Read D (2008) Mycorrhizal symbiosis, 3rd edn. Academic Press, London

    Google Scholar 

  • Teemusk A, Mander U (2007) Rainwater runoff quantity and quality performance from a greenroof: the effects of short-term events. Ecol Eng 30(3):271–277

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Teemusk A, Mander U (2011) The influence of green roofs on runoff water quality: a case study from Estonia. Water Res Manage 25(14):3699–3713

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Thuring CE, Dunnett N (2014) Vegetation composition of old extensive green roofs (from 1980s Germany). Ecol Processes 3:4

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Van Seters T, Rocha L, Smith D, MacMillan G (2009) Evaluation of green roofs for runoff retention, runoff quality, and leachability. Water Qual Res J Can 44(1):33–47

    Google Scholar 

  • Vijayaraghavan K, Joshi U, Balasubramanian R (2012) A field study to evaluate runoff quality from green roofs. Water Res 46(4):1337–1345

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Vitousek P, Howarth R (1991) Nitrogen limitation on land and in the sea-how can it occur. Biogeochemistry 13(2):87–115

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Vitousek PM, Reiners WA (1975) Ecosystem succession and nutrient retention: a hypothesis. BioScience 25(6):376–381

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Vitousek P, Hedin L, Matson P, Fownes J, Neff J (1998) Within-system element cycles, input-output budgets, and nutrient limitation. In: Pace M, Groffman P (eds) Successes, limitations, and frontiers in ecosystem science. Springer, New York, pp 432–451

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Wang X, Zhao X, Peng C, Zhang X, Wang J (2013) A field study to evaluate the impact of different factors on the nutrient pollutant concentrations in green roof runoff. Water Sci Technol 68(12):2691–2697

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Zobrist J, Muller S, Ammann A, Buchelli T, Mottier V, Ochs M, Schoenenberger R, Eugster J, Boller M (2000) Quality of roof runoff for groundwater infiltration. Water Res 34(5):1455–1462

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ishi Buffam .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 2015 Springer International Publishing Switzerland

About this chapter

Cite this chapter

Buffam, I., Mitchell, M. (2015). Nutrient Cycling in Green Roof Ecosystems. In: Sutton, R. (eds) Green Roof Ecosystems. Ecological Studies, vol 223. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-14983-7_5

Download citation

Publish with us

Policies and ethics