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Illustrations of the Green Infrastructure concept

What is Green Infrastructure?

Green bridges and eco-ducts re-connect natural areas that have been artificially divided, by roads or railway lines for example. They reduce accidents involving wild animals and cars – which in France alone, for example, caused damages of about 150 mio. EUR in total. Green bridges also allow animals to move easily and safely from one area to another, and help plant species to spread. This gives animals more space to find food and shelter, and allows populations of the same species to interact, improving the overall resilience of the species.

Developments have to be made in a way that does not destroy the future potential of a site. With the right kind of planning, different needs can be taken into account, and the right balance can be kept. Investments can be made in every kind of environment – even in densely populated urban areas – in a way that is beneficial for people and the economy, while still leaving room for nature. 

Green Infrastructure is not only good for plants and animals: people too benefit from the recreational opportunities and the many 'unseen' positive effects it offers, such as cleaner air and water, better protection from floods and other natural disasters, and better health and well-being.

Size matters: some birds need more than one tree to nest in – and sometimes they even need a forest. River ecosystems produce more fish when they aren't channelled, but kept in or restored to their natural course. In this picture, the hedgehog and the fox show that a single bush won't provide enough cover, but a series of bushes give prey more opportunities to hide from predators.

The benefits of Green Infrastructure are felt at different scales. A floodplain forest doesn't only benefit local people by providing recreational areas: it also provides habitats for animals, helps protect larger areas from being flooded, and contributes to global climate change mitigation through carbon sequestration.

Green Infrastructure can be many things, inside and outside protected areas, where the latter are the core features and the former are often corridors that connect them up to form a functioning network. It is a balanced system of protection and sustainable use and management.

Different species and landscapes need and provide different types of connecting elements. This might involve isolated elements or stepping stones, like a group of trees for birds, or corridors that physically connect habitats, like rivers, including fish ladders on otherwise insurmountable barriers, or hedgerows, linking field and forest habitats.

Using Green Infrastructure to restore degraded natural areas has many benefits. It creates a new space for animals, plants and leisure activities, and it allows nature to carry out its many roles, from purifying the water we drink and the food we eat to protecting us from floods and keeping us cool on hot days.

Green Infrastructure helps prevent disasters. Forests that feature a good mix of species, age and structure absorb large quantities of water and protect the soil, preventing and reducing the impacts of floods and landslides.

Green Infrastructure can be an integral part of urban areas. Properly designed parks, urban gardens, green roofs and walls can all contribute to biodiversity and to tackle climate change. Green spaces in cities do significantly enhance health and well-being of urban residents. It also improves social cohesion and the quality of the living environment.