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Green roofing is on the rise in cities all over the world, making buildings more energy efficient, environmentally friendly and of course, more aesthetically pleasing.

The results of new research by the University of Portsmouth has revealed that the use of bacteria, fungi or other living organisms can improve the biodiversity of the soil in green roofing, when used as an alternative to chemical fertilisers.

Due to the nature of green roofing, with limited soil use for rooting of plants, the unpredictability of watering and the prolonged UV and weather exposure, soil nutrient-content can fluctuate significantly, which can lead to inhibited plant growth and reduced biodiversity of nutrients.

Published in the Ecological Engineering journal, the research has found that by adding microbial inoculants – bacteria and fungi – springtail insects thrive, which improved the biodiversity of green roofing. While this does not positively impact plant growth, per se, it gives researchers additional avenues of research to be looked at in the future.

Dr Heather Rumble, senior environmental geography lecturer at Portsmouth University, and the lead author of the research, said, ‘Few studies have investigated whether green roofs are a good urban habitat, particularly for soil organisms. We think that mature extensive green roofs have an established microbial community that may limit the success of commercial inoculants. The premise of our research was that as the soil food chain is lacking, we could try to boost it artificially. We wanted to identify the microbial inoculants that could improve biodiversity on green roofs that already exist and to better understand how healthy rooftop ecosystems sustain themselves.

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