Dr Chris Szota



I study how plants and soils can be used to improve urban landscapes. My background is in plant ecophysiology, studying nutrient uptake mechanisms and drought tolerance in vegetation far from the city: at restored mine-sites and eucalypt plantations.

Harsh urban environments provide a fantastic opportunity for plant ecophysiologists to contribute to the design of novel vegetated systems; finding species which can not only survive, but also cool microclimates and reduce both air- and water-borne pollution.

Recent projects

My current projects focus on reducing the volume of polluted stormwater generated from urban areas.

I study the performance of Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) elements including green roofs, street trees and biofiltration systems.

With Claire Farrell and Nick Williams,  I’ve worked on finding plants which can survive on shallow-substrate green roofs, while also using enough water to meaningfully reduce stormwater runoff.

In two new projects funded by Melbourne Water and the City of Melbourne, I’m working with Tim Fletcher and Steve Livesleyto develop methods for monitoring soil water status in WSUD systems including structural soil reservoirs and biofiltration systems.  With Tim and Claire, I’m also studying the effects of saline stormwater on the function of biofiltration systems.

Recent grants

City of Melbourne and Melbourne Water (2013-14) $200k ‘Improving the management of stormwater in inner-city Melbourne’ S J Livesley, C Szota and T Fletcher.

Recent publications

Zhang Z, Szota C, Fletcher TD, Williams NSG, Farrell C (2019) Green roof storage capacity can be more important than evapotranspiration for retention performance. Journal of Environmental Management 232:404-412. 

Szota, C., C. Farrell, S.J. Livesley and T.D. Fletcher, 2015. Salt tolerant plants increase nitrogen removal from biofiltration systems affected by saline stormwater. Water Research.  doi:10.1016/j.watres.2015.06.024.

Farrell, C., Szota, C., Williams, N.S.G. and Arndt, S.K. 2013. High water users can be drought tolerant: using physiological traits for green roof plant selection. Plant and Soil DOI: 10.1007/s11104-013-1725-x.

Farrell, C., Mitchell, R.E., Szota, C., Rayner, J.P. and Williams, N.S.G. 2012. Green roofs for hot and dry climates: Interacting effects of plant water use, succulence and substrate.  Ecological Engineering 49: 270-276.

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