New paper: A typology for urban Green Infrastructure

The latest paper from the REGREEN project has been published Open Access in the journal Nature-Based Solutions. It sets out a typology of urban Green Infrastructure which aims to help design and plan new Green Infrastructure.

The paper was led by Prof Laurence Jones from UKCEH, and involved several co-authors from the University of Exeter.

What is Green Infrastructure?

Green Infrastructure (GI) is used to refer to all the varying nature-based elements in urban areas. These can include parks, street trees, green roofs as well as rivers and other water based environments. Green Infrastructure can be used as a Nature-Based Solution (NBS) to tackle a variety of challenges people in cities face, such as heat waves, air pollution and noise pollution.

One of the advantages of GI and NBS above standard built infrastructure solutions to urban problems is that they can have multiple benefits for people. For example, street trees can look attractive, provide shade on hot days and intercept water and reduce flood risk on rainy days. They also support biodiversity and store carbon, helping to tackle wider challenges. These benefits are called ecosystem services.

Photo showing a road with parked cars either side and street trees
Photo by Craig Vodnik on Unsplash

What is a typology?

A typology is a classification system. In this case, we categorise GI according to their features so that we can provide evidence about the potential benefits each different type can provide.

The typology was developed in discussion with experts from natural and social sciences, education and economics, and city officials from our three REGREEN Urban Living Labs: Paris in France, Aarhus in Denmark and Velika Gorica in Croatia.

The typology can be found in the table at the following link: Table link. A snippet is also provided below. The typology has nine main categories, further broken down into 47 sub-categories. They range from small features (balconies or gardens) through to much larger features (parks, urban woodland) and could be publicly or privately owned.

Object type (& description)Object category
Gardens (Mainly private space linked to dwellings)Balcony
Private garden
Shared common garden area
Parks (Mainly public space, but some access restrictions may apply)Pocket park
Park
Botanical garden
Heritage garden
Nursery garden
Snippet from Table 2 in the published paper displaying the typology for parks and gardens and their sub-categories.

Ecosystem services

We also rated each GI for the ecosystem services they can provide, for example food provision, water flow management (which can help reduce the risk of flooding), supporting physical activity, restoring capacities (e.g. recovery from stress), and many others.

Some GI types are expected to be very multi-functional, for example woodlands are considered to provide high or very high levels of nearly all the ecosystem services. While others, such as school yards, provide only one or two ecosystem services at high or very high levels. In the case of school yards, these were supporting physical activity and supporting social interactions.

This kind of rating system can help to support decision making around identifying co-benefits and trade-offs. For example, if reducing flood risk is the priority, then GI types which reduce water flows but also provide high levels of other co-benefits can be identified as a first step.

Summary

This paper provides a typlogy for urban Green Infrastructure and rates these for the ecoststem services they provide. We hope this will be a useful tool for decision makers in implementing Nature Based Solutions in their towns and cities.

The paper is available Open Access at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nbsj.2022.100041

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