Friday, December 10, 2010

Importance of Green Roofs for Endangered Species and Wildlife

Both wildlife and plant species struggle to compete with humankind for survival.  As a top level predator, humans possess a distinct advantage over most plants and species of the animal kingdom.  Scientists say 98% of all documented species ever to have lived on our planet are now extinct.

Fueled with the explosive energies of petroleum, humans have developed machines that can level vast expanses of forests with quick efficiencies.

Once the land is cleared of trees, natural hydrology, plants and wildlife, then the soil is chopped and leveled to make way for imprevious roads of asphalt and concrete.

Buildings rise where trees once stood.  Greenhouse gasses capture solar heat and along with the concrete and asphalt structures, cities and surrounding landscapes become increasingly hot and hostile to plants and wildlife.

Trees and plants, the most important primary producers of life sustaining oxygen, fade to the outskirts.

The lone endangered reptile, bird or butterfly, making their way across the vast expanse of now unrecognizable terrain, faces a number of exotic, invasive species and lack of habitat protection to escape to.

No place to mate, no place to feed, no place to hide.

Except for those Urban Core Green areas such as parks, conservation areas and especially green roofs.

Green roofs offer volumetric green - green with an altitude.  Volumetric green is an important component for survival with many species.

For example, the Florida anole requires greenery above 2 meters to escape the larger, more aggressive Cuban anole.

Green roofs, be they on a shed, garage, house, commercial building, apartment complex or bus stop - can make the difference between death and survival for wildlife.

Green Roofs & Gulf Fritillary, Agraulis vanillae
Importantly, wildlife will seek out and utilize green roofs, very quickly.  We have seen the progression, time after time, of - after installation of a vegetated roof - the arrival of the first wave of smaller creatures - lizards, anoles, frogs and tree frogs, insects and crickets, june bugs and dragonflies, butterflies and moths - each vying for their own space within the vegetation of the green roof.

Night pollinators, especially are drawn to the vertical greenery.

With the arrival of the first group of wildlife species comes an unexpected benefit - an Integrated Pest Management System.

Anoles and tree frogs devour large amounts of  mosquitoes, flies, roaches and termites, adding fertilizer to the green roof plants and keeping plant pests such as aphids under control.

We have witnessed areas that have always been subject to house fly infestations become virtually fly-free with the installation of a nearby green roof.

As the first generation of smaller wildlife species becomes established on the green roof the next populations of larger birds and reptiles begin to appear.

Witnessing black racer snakes and other beneficial snakes and reptiles inhabit the green roof is like watching a Discovery Channel Video.  The snakes forage across the green roof plants for lizards and frogs, maintaining population control.

Following the snakes are the raptors - birds of prey tracking snakes and smaller birds (Mourning Doves), squirrels and other green roof species.

Owls, red-tailed hawks, peregrine falcons, swallow-tail kites, osprey and a pair of eagles regularly visit nearby green roofs, choosing perches in nearby trees - and taking the opportunity to feed on the occasional ground mouse running through the neighborhood.

To borrow a phrase from a popular movie, - You build it and they will come...

Green roofs are important sanctuaries in the concrete jungle for wildlife, especially those species endangered because of habitat loss.

Build a green roof and they will come.  Save a species from extinction.

Happy Green Roofing and Happy Friday Afternoon!


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