Understanding biodiversity services in urban and analogous natural systems: the case of green roofs

First Author's Department

Department of Biological Sciences



Document Type



Green roofs provide urban environments and the humans within them with many services, including stormwater management, reduced energy consumption and habitat for organisms. However, due to the physical constraints of many green roof environments, green roof habitats are typically characterized by thin soils experiencing drought, flood, and intense wind and solar radiation. Natural habitats with these characteristics are relatively rare, however, some intact thin soil environments occur in the Great Lakes basin. Our research examines the plant and insect communities arising around these natural and built thin-soil environments, to gain insight into how these habitats contribute service and function to the greater landscape. Insect communities are key contributors to several ecosystem services, including pollination, pest control, and decomposition. Improving our understanding of how insects in these habitats function is important to guide efforts to design structurally-analogous elements intended to deliver services in urban environments. We will sample three functional groups of insects (pollinators, natural enemies and decomposers) in green roofs and natural areas that are similar to green roof structure, while characterizing the plants and other physical attributes of each site. Once identified, we will compare communities between and within built and natural systems of various characteristics, and the functional ecology can be described. Our work will inform design of green roofs to improve biodiversity service delivery in urban environments.