US Climate and Health Alliance

The Multifunctionality of Green Infrastructure


Green Infrastructure (GI) stands to improve quality of life in many ways, through its environmental, social and economic credentials, based on the multifunctional use of natural capital. Potentially a very valuable policy tool, GI’s multifunctionality could contribute to the achievement of a number of policy aims and fulfil the needs of a variety of stakeholder groups. GI can be created in many places, covering natural and semi-natural areas in urban, rural and marine areas, as well as man-made elements, such as green roofs and ecoducts over motorways, and restored lands, such as wetlands and mangroves. One of its major attractions is its ability to perform multiple functions on the same piece of land and/or water. While biodiversity remains at the core of GI, it is much more than a biodiversity conservation instrument. The roles of GI are highly interdependent, for example, societal wellbeing in coastal and river areas depends on flood retention by wetlands or natural drainage systems, which in turn depend directly on the provision of ecosystem services, such as soil and water regulation. These, in turn, are highly reliant on biodiversity to uphold the health of the ecosystems to provide ecosystem services. Evaluating the many aspects and functions of GI is a complex process. Although some elements with clear functions and objectives can be easy to measure, such as the ability of green roofs to reduce stormwater runoff, it can be challenging to identify one overall measurement encompassing all the different GI objectives. As such, the evaluation of GI may require a combination of qualitative or descriptive assessments with quantitative measures, using input from both ecological and social sciences. For example, quantitative measures of changes in ecosystem services could be combined with descriptive measures of existing political infrastructure to support policy measures and stakeholder participation. Indeed, stakeholder participation will be crucial to the success of GI and, as a tool that spans several scientific and political disciplines, GI policy will require creative methods to inform its planning, implementation and evaluation. Although this may present a challenge, it should not hamper the adoption of GI policy tools and its use on the groun

Resource Type
Science for Environment Policy (European Commission)
Resource URL
March 2012
Organization Type
Other gov
Health and Human Impact
Climate and Environmental Impact
Active transportation Built environment Urban greening

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