A/Prof Claire Farrell



Claire’s research focuses on how we can use plants in green infrastructure (green roofs, facades, rain gardens and woody meadows) to make cities more liveable. Urban greening can provide wide-ranging benefits for human health and well-being, biodiversity, stormwater mitigation and cooling. By understanding how plants function and selecting plants which can both tolerate and thrive in urban landscapes, we can create green and resilient cities. As a plant scientist, much of my research has evaluated plant tolerances to improve survival and stormwater retention in green roofs, walls and urban plantings.

In recent years, my research has moved down from rooftops and into streetscapes and parks. I lead the four-year Woody Meadow Australian Research Council research project which is transforming low maintenance plantings in cities. We are researching how naturalistic plantings of Australian shrubs can improve the appearance, resilience and function of low maintenance landscapes, which generally lack diversity.

Woody Meadows are novel urban plantings which use natural shrublands as templates to create beautiful, diverse plantings which are maintained periodically through coppicing. This research draws on an ecological understanding of how Australian shrubland communities respond to disturbances such as fire and how plant traits relate with resprouting and drought resistance strategies.  We are also researching how Woody Meadows can be used in water sensitive urban design applications including raingardens and swales. Recognised for their innovation, sustainability and low cost, Woody Meadows are growing exponentially and are part of major landscape projects across Australia. This growing network of plantings enables us to use them as ‘common garden’ experiments to understand plant responses to different conditions, and test their resiliency.

See The Woody Meadow Project.

For a full list of publications go to ResearchGate or see below

  • Recent Green Infrastructure Publications


    Farrell C, Livesley SJ, Arndt SK, Beaumont L, Burley H, Ellsworth D, Esperon-Rodriguez M, Fletcher TD, Gallagher R, Ossola A, Power SA, Marchin R, Rayner JP, Rymer PD, Staas L, Szota C, Williams NSG, Leishman M (2022) Can we integrate ecological approaches to improve plant selection for green infrastructure? Urban For. Urban Green. 76, 127732. Link

    Saraeian, Z., Farrell, C. & Williams, N. S. G. (2022) Green roofs sown with an annual plant mix attain high cover and functional diversity regardless of irrigation frequency. Urban For Urban Green:127594. Link

    Thom, J. K., Livesley, S. J., Fletcher, T. D., Farrell, C., Arndt, S. K., Konarska, J. & Szota, C. (2022). Selecting tree species with high transpiration and drought avoidance to optimise runoff reduction in passive irrigation systems. Sci Total Environ. 812, 151466. Link.

    Soni, L., Szota, C., Fletcher, T. D. & Farrell, C. (in press). Influence of water storage and plant crop factor on green roof retention and plant drought stress. PLOS Water doi:10.1371/journal.pwat.0000009.


    Chu, H. -H. & Farrell, C. (2021). Fast plants have water-use and drought strategies that balance rainfall retention and drought survival on green roofs. Ecol. Appli. Link

    Chung, P. -W., Livesley, S. J., Rayner, J. P. & Farrell, C. (2021). Rooting Volume Impacts Growth, Coverage and Thermal Tolerance of Green Facade Climbing Plants. LAND 10. Link

    Chung, P., Livesley, S. J., Rayner, J.P & Farrell, C. (2021) Greywater irrigation can support climbing plant growth on building green façades. Urban For Urban Green. Link

    Guo, B., Arndt, S., Miller, R., Lu, N. & Farrell, C. (2021). Are succulence or trait combinations related to plant survival on hot and dry green roofs? Urban For Urban Green. Link

    Schrieke, D. & Farrell, C. (2021). Trait-based green roof plant selection: Water use and drought response of nine common spontaneous plants. Urban For Urban Green. Link

    Schrieke, D., Lonnqvist, J., Blecken, G. -T., Williams, N. S. G. & Farrell, C. (2021). Socio-Ecological Dimensions of Spontaneous Plants on Green Roofs. Front. sustain. Cities. Link

    Werdin, J., Conn, R., Fletcher, T. D., Rayner, J. P., Williams, N. S. G. & Farrell, C. (2021). Biochar particle size and amendment rate are more important for water retention and weight of green roof substrates than differences in feedstock type. Ecol Eng. 171 Link

    Williams, N.S.G., Bathgate, R.S., Farrell, C., Lee, K.E., Szota, C., Bush, J., Johnson, K.A., Miller, R.E., Pianella, A., Sargent, L.D., Schiller, J., Williams, K.J.H. & Rayner, J.P. (2021) Ten years of greening a wide brown land: A synthesis of Australian green roof research and roadmap forward. Urban For Urban Green. 62, 127179. Link

    Xu, G. -Q., Farrell, C. & Arndt, S. K. (2021). Climate of origin has no influence on drought adaptive traits and the drought responses of a widely distributed polymorphic shrub. Tree Physiol. 42: 86-96. Link


    Somerville, P. D., Farrell, C., May, P. B. & Livesley, S. J. (2020) Biochar and compost equally improve urban soil physical and biological properties and tree growth, with no added benefit in combination. Sci. Total Environ. Link

    Conn R., Werdin J., Rayner J.P. & Farrell, C. (2020) Green roof substrate physical properties differ between standard laboratory tests due to differences in compaction. J Environ Manag. 261:1-8. Link

    Xue, M. & Farrell, C. (2020) Use of organic wastes to create lightweight green roof substrates with increased plant-available water. Urban For Urban Green. 48:126569. Link

    Werdin, J., T. D. Fletcher, J. P. Rayner, N. S.G. Williams & Farrell, C. (2020) Biochar made from low density wood has greater plant available water than biochar made from high density wood. Sci. Total Environ. 705: 135856. Link

  • Other Publications


    Szota, C., McCarthy, M.J., Sanders, G.J., Farrell, C., Fletcher, T.D., Arndt, S.K. & Livesley, S.J. (2018) Tree water-use strategies to improve stormwater retention performance of biofiltration systems. Water Research, 144, 285-295.

    Du, P., Arndt, S.K. & Farrell, C. (2018) Relationships between plant drought response, traits, and climate of origin for green roof plant selection. Ecological Applications, doi:10.1002/eap.1782

    Zhang, Z., Szota, C., Fletcher, T.D., Williams, N.S.G., Werdin, J. & Farrell, C. (2018) Influence of plant composition and water use strategies on green roof stormwater retention. Science of the Total Environment, 625, 775-781.


    Szota, C., Farrell, C., Williams, N.S.G., Arndt, S.K. & Fletcher, T.D. (2017) Drought-avoiding plants with low water use can achieve high rainfall retention without jeopardising survival on green roofs. Science of the Total Environment, 603-604, 340-351.

    Szota, C., Fletcher, T., Desbois, C., Rayner, J., Williams, N. & Farrell, C. (2017) Laboratory Tests of Substrate Physical Properties May Not Represent the Retention Capacity of Green Roof Substrates In Situ. Water, 9, 920.

    Farrell, C., Szota, C. & Arndt, S.K. (2017) Does the turgor loss point characterize drought response in dryland plants? Plant, Cell & Environment, 40, 1500-1511.

    Richards, P.J., Williams, N.S.G., Fletcher, T.D. & Farrell, C. (2017) Can raingardens produce food and retain stormwater? Effects of substrates and stormwater application method on plant water use, stormwater retention and yield. Ecological Engineering, 100, 165-174.


    C Szota C.F., N Williams, TD Fletcher (2016) A practical tool for designing vegetated roofs to optimise rainfall retention (Un outil pratique pour optimiser la rétention des eaux pluviales dans les toitures végétalisées – Contrôle à la source). In: Novatech – planning and technologies for sustainable urban water management.  9th international conference, Lyon, France. http://documents.irevues.inist.fr/bitstream/handle/2042/60502/1B22-127SZO.pdf

    C. Farrell, C.T.N. Cao, X.Q. Ang and J.P. Rayner, (2016) Use of water-retention additives to improve performance of green roof substrates. Acta Hort. (ISHS): 271-278. http://www.actahort.org/books/1108/1108_35.htm

    Chambers D.P., Walker C., Williams K., Rayner J., Farrell C., Butt A.-M. & Rostan-Herbert D. (2016) Engaging Students with Environmental Sustainability at a Research Intensive University: Examples of Small Successes. In: Teaching Education for Sustainable Development at University Level, pp. 205-219. Springer International Publishing. http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-32928-4_14

    Rayner J.P., Farrell C., Raynor K.J., Murphy S.M. & Williams N.S. (2016) Plant establishment on a green roof under extreme hot and dry conditions: The importance of leaf succulence in plant selection. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 15, 6-14. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1618866715001569

    Williams NSG, Rayner JP, Lee KE, Fletcher TD, Chen D, Szota C and F. C. (2016) Developing Australian green roofs: overview of a 5-year research program. Acta Hort (ISHS).: 345-352 http://www.actahort.org/books/1108/1108_46.htm


    Farrell C, Szota C, Arndt SK. Urban Plantings: ‘Living Laboratories’ for Climate Change Response (2015) Trends in Plant Science 20(10): 597-599. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1360138515002071S1360138515002071

    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 83: 195-204.  doi:10.1016/j.watres.2015.06.024.

    Richards, P.J., C. Farrell, M. Tom, N.S. Williams and T.D. Fletcher (2015). Vegetable raingardens can produce food and reduce stormwater runoff. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening 14: 646-654.  doi:10.1016/j.ufug.2015.06.007.


    Cao, C.T., C. Farrell, P.E. Kristiansen and J.P. Rayner (2014) Biochar makes green roof substrates lighter and improves water supply to plants. Ecological Engineering 71: 368-374. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoleng.2014.06.017

    Lee, K.E., K.J.H. Williams, L.D. Sargent, C. Farrell and N.S. Williams (2014) Living roof preference is influenced by plant characteristics and diversity. Landscape and Urban Planning 122: 152-159. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2013.09.011


    Farrell, C., X.Q. Ang and J.P. Rayner, (2013a.) Water-retention additives increase plant available water in green roof substrates. Ecol. Eng, 52: 112-118.

    Farrell, C., C. Szota, N.S.G. Williams and S.K. Arndt (2013b.) High water users can be drought tolerant: using physiological traits to improve green roof plant selection. Plant and soil 372: 177-193 Plant Soil, DOI 10.1007/s11104-013-1725-x.


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

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