Spontaneous plant colonization and bird visits of tropical extensive green roof

Huijuan DENG, Chi Yung JIM

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26 Citations (Scopus)


Green roofs can contribute to enrichment and conservation of urban ecology. An experimental green roof was established in humid-tropical Hong Kong to monitor over two years its spontaneous colonization by plants and bird visits. Some 94 voluntary vascular plant species from 26 families and 76 genera were established, with propagules brought mainly by birds and wind and secondarily inherited from soil seed bank. Plant species composition changed dynamically during the study period. They fall into three groups, namely dominant ruderal (herbaceous and sub-shrub) as surrogate of early-stage local grassland ecosystem succession, arboreal (trees and shrubs), and hygrophilous herb. Progressive increase in vegetation cover was accompanied by changes in species diversity and evenness. In addition, 16 bird species from 8 families and 14 genera were recorded. Ten species were residents and the six migrant species were winter visitors. Their food preference was mainly omnivore and insectivore. Winter and the second year encountered higher species richness, diversity, and evenness. Most vegetation parameters correlated positively with avian community indexes, signifying provision of sustenance by green-roof ecosystem to birds. Vegetation coverage correlated negatively with avian abundance, due to shunning by the abundant ground-foraging Tree Sparrow. Both local common ruderal plant species and common urban bird species can successfully establish and reproduce on the extensive green roof, confirming potentials for urban ecology and biodiversity enhancement and conservation even in densely-developed urban areas. The successful nurturing of naturalistic green roof offers new opportunities for green roof design that deviates from the predominant cultivated-horticultural approach. Copyright © 2016 Springer Science+Business Media New York.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)337-352
JournalUrban Ecosystems
Issue number2
Early online date09 Sept 2016
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2017


Deng, H., & Jim, C. Y. (2017). Spontaneous plant colonization and bird visits of tropical extensive green roof. Urban Ecosystems, 20(2), 337–352. doi: 10.1007/s11252-016-0596-3


  • Extensive green roof
  • Naturalistic green-roof design
  • Spontaneous plant species
  • Ecological succession
  • Bird community
  • Urban biodiversity conservation


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