Green Infrastructure is addressing the spatial structure of natural and semi-natural areas but also other environmental features which enable citizens to benefit from its multiple services. The underlying principle of Green Infrastructure is that the same area of land can frequently offer multiple benefits if its ecosystems are in a healthy state. Green Infrastructure investments are generally characterized by a high level of return over time, provide job opportunities, and can be a cost-effective alternative or be complementary to 'grey' infrastructure and intensive land use change. It serves the interests of both people and nature.
From the perspective of Natural Water Retention Measures (NWRM), green infrastructure refers to new methods of managing water, favouring as much as possible the restoration of natural ecosystems or at least of their key functionalities in terms of water management. It consists of land management or engineering measures which use vegetation, soils, and other natural materials to restore the natural water retention capacity of the landscape. Green infrastructure measures use natural and man-made materials to enhance or improve longitudinal and lateral hydrological connectivity and natural hydrologic processes, including infiltration and runoff control but also purification processes. Green infrastructure can exist at a range of spatial scales, ranging from the very local, to the scale of a neighbourhood, a city or a whole region.
Local scale green infrastructure includes green roofs, permeable pavements and downspout disconnections, all of which can contribute to greater natural infiltration, reduced load on wastewater management systems, and limitations of peak runoff.
At the scale of a city or neighbourhood, green infrastructure can support sustainable urban drainage systems that mimic nature by soaking up and storing water or biodiversity promotion with fish ladders.
At a regional scale, green infrastructure can include the mosaic of managed semi-natural and natural areas that provides habitat, flood protection, cleaner air, and cleaner water. Thus land management strategies such as afforestation and retention of natural water retaining features in agricultural areas such as riparian buffers, ponds and wetlands can be considered as Green infrastructures designed to manage flood risks in downstream urban areas.
One key feature of Green infrastructure is its multi-functionality. The underlying principle of green infrastructure is that the same area of land can offer multiple benefits if the natural or man-made ecosystem is in a socio-ecologically sustainable state. Benefits of green infrastructure include a more natural hydrological cycle and ecosystem services related to biodiversity and human amenity. Green Infrastructure investments are generally characterized by a high level of return over time, provide job opportunities, and can be a cost-effective alternative or be complementary to 'grey' infrastructure and intensive land use change. Green infrastructure serves the interests of both people and nature.