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Why green roofs never work


On a rooftop in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood, two students are collecting soil samples from boxes planted with species from two native plant communities: Hempstead Plains, which are grasses belonging to a prairie community originally found on Long Island, and Rocky Summit grasslands, which grow on the tops of mountains and ridges throughout southern New England and all of New York State. They carefully place the dirt from the soil core into a plastic bag and seal it up to be taken to the lab for analysis.

These two students are part of a research team that is trying to figure out how to maximize the benefits of green roofs. The problem has taken on practical significance as grass and other plants sprout on rooftops all over Manhattan and in other cities.

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