The rainwater retention and peak flow reduction effect of seven extensive green roof (EGR) modules were studied in Beijing under natural rainfall events from May to September 2015. Monitored EGR modules had a layer of vegetation widely planted in northern China and a substrate layer with a thickness of 20 or 50 or 100 mm. The EGRs effectively retained rainwater, and regression equations of the potential retention capacity as a function of rainfall depth were developed for five EGR modules, which show that generally the capacity decreased as rainfall depth increased. The EGR with Sedum lineare Thunb and 100 mm improved soil had relatively higher average retention capacity (61.8%) than others, but all EGR modules had similar retention for an extraordinary rainfall event of 114.4 mm. For rainfall events less than 15 mm, EGR modules had 100% rainfall retention most of the time. The reduction in peak runoff rate ranged from 30.8% to 85.4%. The EGRs with Sedum lineare Thunb using 20 mm improved soil and 50 mm either pastoral soil or ultra-low weight substrates have similar peak reduction (51.3–58.2%). The EGRs with Sedum lineare Thunb have better rainfall retention and peak reduction than EGRs with Angiospermae or Sedum aizoon L.

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