Publication Details

Aguiar, A. C., Robinson, S. A. & French, K. (2019). Friends with benefits: The effects of vegetative shading on plant survival in a green roof environment. PLoS ONE, 14 (11), e0225078-1-e0225078-16.


Green roofs help ameliorate some of the adverse social, economic and environmental effects of urbanisation. However, green roofs are harsh environments for plants, as they must cope with shallow soils, low nutrient availability, high solar radiation, low water availability and high pollution/disturbances. The effect of shade plants on vegetation survivability was investigated using green roof mesocosms with four different native species pairs (shade plant and a target ground cover plant). To examine the effect of shading and competition on plant growth and survival, plant pairs were subjected to four treatments; naturally shaded with a shade plant shading the target plant, artificially shaded with an artificial plant shading the target plant, unshaded natural which had a trimmed shade plant providing no shade to the target plant and an unshaded treatment with the target plant being the sole occupant of the mesocosm. The experiment ran for 11 months with measurements taken monthly to record growth and visual health of the target plant. Soil moisture and biomass data was collected at the end of the experiment. Overall, natural shade treated plants had the highest biomass while unshaded plants had the lowest biomass. Contrary to our predictions, the shaded artificial and the unshaded natural had similar moderate biomass. This similarity suggests that while shading had a positive influence on plant growth, there was also a positive influence of growing with a shade plant which is not accounted for by shading. The results highlight the complexity of biotic relations between plants and emphasises that the presence of a nurse plants can be benefit to the survival and growth of other species within a green roof ecosystem.



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