Can microbial inoculants boost soil food webs and vegetation development on newly constructed extensive green roofs?

Heather Rumble, Paul Finch, Alan C. Gange

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Abstract

Green roofs are a key to providing nature-based solutions in cities. However, most green roofs installed in the Northern hemisphere are shallow, stonecrop planted systems (“extensive” green roofs), which have been shown to support limited biodiversity and could be more effective at providing ecosystem services. One issue with this type of extensive green roof is that rootzones are almost sterile on construction, relying on natural colonisation to provide a soil food web. This is a slow process, meaning plant growth can also be slow. Our aim was to determine if a soil food web could be introduced when the green roof is built. We applied microbial inoculants (mycorrhizal fungi and bacteria (Bacillus spp.)) to a new green roof and monitored plant growth and the soil food web (bacteria, mycorrhizal fungi and microarthropods). Different inoculants altered the composition of microarthropod communities, potentially impacting later succession. In particular, bacterial inoculants increased microarthropod populations. This is one of the first studies to demonstrate that the addition of microbial inoculants impacts not only plant growth, but also faunal components of the soil food web, which could have implications for long-term resilience. Bacteria were effective at aiding mycorrhizal colonisation of plants roots, but this colonisation had no impact on the growth of our selected stonecrops, Sedum album, Petrosedum reflexum and Phedimus spurius. We suggest that if a beneficial mycorrhiza could be found to promote the growth of these specific species on green roofs, bacteria could be effective “helper” species to aid colonisation. This study enables green roof researchers and the industry to justify further exploration of the impact of microbial inoculants on green roofs.
Original languageEnglish
Article number127684
Number of pages10
JournalUrban Forestry & Urban Greening
Volume75
Early online date3 Aug 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2022

Keywords

  • Green roof
  • Inoculant
  • Mycorrhiza
  • Microarthropod
  • PLFA
  • Sedum
  • UKRI
  • NERC
  • NE/G012482/1

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