EU Science Hub

Green infrastructure in Europe: methodological guidelines and lessons learned

Residential building in the public green park during sunrise
Landscape around Hescborn, Germany
Mar 26 2019

The Joint Research Centre, the European Environment Agency and the Directorate-General for Environment joined efforts to deliver a comprehensive report providing methodological guidance to support the strategic deployment of green infrastructure and ecosystem restoration in Europe. 

Water purification, storage and drainage, flood mitigation, heat regulation and improved air quality, crop pollination, recreational spaces - these are just some of the fundamental services provided by green infrastructure in urban and rural areas.

Green Infrastructure (GI) is a strategically planned network of green (land) and blue (water) spaces that, while delivering a wide range of ecosystem services, also helps biodiversity to recover, maintains, enhances or restores the health of ecosystems, ensures that natural areas remain connected, and allows species to thrive across their entire natural habitat. GI also helps improve people’s health and well-being.

Furthermore, GI - such as freshwaters, ecological corridors, valuable green areas and urban parks - deliver nature-based solutions that reduce our dependence on 'grey' infrastructure (which is often more expensive to build and maintain), support a green economy, create job opportunities and enable landscapes to recover from biodiversity losses.

For these reasons, the EU's 2013 strategy 'Green infrastructure: Enhancing Europe’s natural capital' puts GI at the core of spatial and territorial planning in the EU.

The Joint Research Centre, the European Environment Agency and the Directorate-General for Environment of the European Commission recently released the joint report ‘Strategic Green Infrastructure and Ecosystem Restoration’ to provide technical guidelines to national, regional and local stakeholders on the strategic design of a well-connected, multi-functional, and cross-border GI.

The report draws upon a range of geospatial methods, data and tools, and shows how they can be used to deploy GI in real cases collected from across Europe and at different spatial scales. GI mapping and spatial planning is crucial to prioritize conservation, defragmentation and restoration measures in the agri-environment and regional development context, and to find land allocation trade-offs and possible land-use scenarios involving all sectors.

This work supports EU Member States in implementing and evaluating the EU's 2013 Green Infrastructure strategy and the EU's Biodiversity Strategy, in particular, its second target, ‘To maintain and restore ecosystems and their services by including green infrastructure in spatial planning and restoring at least 15% of degraded ecosystems’.


Lessons learned for GI mapping

  • National, regional and local authorities must improve integrated spatial planning and coordinated management between sectors to reduce the pressures from land conversion, mitigate and adapt to climate change and to ensure that GI and biodiversity enhancement become an integral part of spatial and territorial planning.
  • Clear methodological guidelines, training and participatory approaches are needed to advance the transition towards integrated spatial planning.
  • Member States and other stakeholders can benefit from geospatial methods, data and maps in support of the strategic deployment of GI from sub-national to EU levels.  The report shows the use of two mapping approaches — physical- and ecosystem-based — and three key GI principles  (connectivity, multifunctionality and spatial planning on selected urban and rural landscapes, and how these can apply at all scales.


To know more about our findings, read the full report.