The idea that nature is also infrastructure isn't new. But it's now more widely understood to be true. Nature can be harnessed to provide critical services for communities, protecting them against flooding or excessive heat, or helping to improve air and water quality, which underpin human and environmental health. When nature is harnessed by people and used as an infrastructural system it's called "green infrastructure."
Green infrastructure occurs at all scales. While it's often closely associated with green stormwater management systems, which are smart and cost-effective, it's really bigger than that.
Green infrastructure can be a centerpiece of smart regional and metropolitan planning, ensuring communities have a livable environment, with clean air and water, for generations to come. Green infrastructure can be designed to address the needs of wildlife, which are increasingly threatened by climate change, providing systems of corridors or greenways to enable movement through human settlements. Those corridors are often beautiful places that people want to live near, too.
Green infrastructure is also park systems and urban forests. The message here is that trees are a critical piece in green infrastructural systems and shouldn't be discounted in favor of other technologies.
Constructed wetlands are another way to harness nature to manage water locally and provide wildlife habitat.
Lastly, at the site-scale, smart communities are using green infrastructure for transportation systems (green streets), and green roofs, which can can bring the benefits of nature to the built environment.
Researchers are amassing a body of evidence to prove that green infrastructure works: these systems are shown to be more cost-effective than outmoded models of grey infrastructure, and also provide far more benefits for both people and the environment. Nature can be incorporated everywhere to provide many benefits at once.
Below you’ll find hundreds of free research studies, news articles, and case studies, organized by green infrastructure scale, from broadest to smallest:
Overview: The Benefits
Forests & Nature Reserves
Wildlife Habitat & Corridors
Green Streets (learn more at our guide on Sustainable Transportation)
Green Roofs & Walls