First Advisor

Gwynn R. Johnson

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Civil & Environmental Engineering


Civil and Environmental Engineering




Green roofs (Gardening), Soil amendments -- Environmental aspects, Urban runoff -- Environmental aspects



Physical Description

1 online resource (x, 107 p.) ; ill. (some col.)


As the numbers of installed greenroofs continue to grow internationally, designing greenroof growing media to reduce the amount of nutrients in the stormwater runoff is becoming essential. Biochar, a carbon-net-negative soil amendment, has been promoted for its ability to retain nutrients in soils and increase soil fertility. This study evaluated the effect on water quality of greenroof runoff after adding biochar to a typical extensive greenroof soil. Prototype greenroof trays with and without 7% biochar (by weight) were planted with sedum or ryegrass, with barren soil trays for controls. The greenroof trays were subjected to two sequential 2.9 in/hr rainfall events using a rainfall simulator. Runoff from the rainfall events was collected and evaluated for total nitrogen, total phosphorus, nitrate, phosphate, total organic carbon, and inorganic carbon. Greenroof trays containing biochar showed lower quantities of nutrients in the stormwater runoff compared to trays without biochar. Biochar-amended soil with and without plants showed a 3- to 25-fold decrease in release of nitrate and total nitrogen concentrations, as well as a decrease in phosphate and total phosphorus concentrations release into the rainfall runoff. Phosphorus results from trays planted with sedum indicate that sedum interacted with both soils to cause a decrease of phosphorus in the greenroof runoff. In correlation with a visual effect in turbidity, biochar-amended soil showed a reduction of total organic carbon in the runoff by a factor of 3 to 4 for all soil and plant trays. Inorganic carbon was similar for all tests showing that inorganic carbon neither reacted with, nor was retained by, biochar in the soil. The addition of biochar to greenroof soil is an effective way to retain nutrients in a greenroof soil, reduce future fertilizer demands, and improve the water quality of the stormwater runoff by reducing nitrogen, phosphorus, and total organic carbon concentrations in the runoff water.


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Portland State University. Dept. of Civil & Environmental Engineering

Persistent Identifier