Living the High Life

Green roofs reduce energy use and cool down cities. But what else can they do? According to a study in PLOS ONE, green roofs also provide homes for a wide variety of fungi, suggesting they can support urban biodiversity.

The researchers studied 10 green roofs in New York City, from Staten Island to the Bronx. The team collected samples from the roofs’ planting boxes, as well as from city parks. Then fungi in the samples were identified using DNA sequencing.

Each roof had an average of 109 types of fungi, the team reports. Every main fungal group was represented, suggesting that “even the small, vegetated areas of green roofs can maintain considerable fungal diversity,” the authors write. Many of the organisms were similar to fungi that tolerate pollutants such as lead.

The fungi on the green roofs were often different from those found in city parks. But the sets of organisms may grow more similar over time as fungal spores flit between parks and roofs. Roberta Kwok | 6 March 2013

Source: McGuire, K.L. et al. 2013. Digging the New York City skyline: Soil fungal communities in green roofs and city parks. PLOS ONE doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0058020.

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