Using recycled aggregates in green roof substrates for plant diversity

Chloe Molineux, Alan Gange, Stuart P. Connop, Darryl Newport

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Extensive green roofs are becoming a popular tool for restoring green infrastructure in urban areas, particularly biodiverse habitats such as post-industrial/brownfield sites. This study investigated the use of six recycled lightweight aggregates and combinations of them in green roof growing substrate, to determine their effectiveness for enhancing plant abundance and species diversity. In two separate experiments, we examined the roles of substrate type and depth on the establishment of a perennial wildflower mix over a 15-month period. We found that some of the alternative substrates are comparable to the widely used crushed red brick aggregate (predominantly found in commercial green roof growing substrate) for supporting plant establishment. For some materials such as clay pellets, there was increased plant coverage and a higher number of plant species than in any other substrate. Substrates that were produced from a blend of two or three aggregate types also supported higher plant abundance and diversity. Generally, increasing substrate depth improved plant establishment, however this effect was not consistent across substrates. We conclude that recycled materials may be viable constituents of growing substrate for green roofs and they may improve green roof resilience, through increased plant cover and diversity. The results could provide evidence to support the construction of mosaic habitat types on single roofs using various substrate blends.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)596-604
Number of pages9
JournalEcological Engineering
Early online date15 Jun 2015
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2015


  • recycled aggregattes
  • growing substrates
  • extensive green roof
  • Biodiversity
  • plant assemblages

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