Green Infrastructure in Denmark


Being a densely populated country, most of the area of Denmark is strategically planned and managed in one way or another. The Government agreed on a Nature Package (Naturpakken) in May 2016 and a package regarding Food and Agriculture (Fødevare og landbrugspakken) in December 2016 which will be the frameworks for furthering activities on GI.

Partly in response to the EU objective to halt the loss of biodiversity to 2020, the idea of a Green Map of Denmark (“Grønt Danmarkskort”) was introduced in the Danish Spatial Planning Act in 2015 with the aim to, for instance, ensure that the most valuable Danish nature is sufficiently interconnected to allow species to spread and thrive. Although the term “green infrastructure” is not explicit in the document, “more and better interconnected nature” is the main objective of the Green Map of Denmark. The Green Map is to provide the strategic framework for Danish nature policy by ensuring that existing and new measures and new natural areas are located where they will have the largest effect. The Map is also intended to function as a concrete map of existing natural areas in order to support land use planning processes and the location of new GI. According to the Danish Spatial Planning Act, municipalities are to designate areas to the Green Map based on a common base map and common criteria, and include these in municipal plans from 2017 onwards. The plans are to be further developed and gradually implemented until 2050. National and international nature protection measures in Denmark constitute the backbone of the Green Map and future national-level conservation measures will be introduced on the basis of the Green Map.

To support the municipalities’ development of the Green Map and improve land use planning, a new digital mapping service of biodiversity in Denmark (“biodiversitetskort”) has been developed. This map provides information about the distribution of threatened and vulnerable species and an overview of high value natural areas. It is part of a suite of mapping services known as the Nature Map (“naturkort”).

The following are other Danish policies with particular relevance to GI. None of these refer explicitly to “green infrastructure”, but use other similar concepts and terminology or are of implicit relevance to the development of GI:

  • The Nature Protection Act (“Naturbeskyttelseloven“, 2016) – The Act aims to protect nature, species and habitats as well as cultural values, while ensuring good public access to nature and the opportunity for all to enjoy the outdoors. The Act includes, for instance, regulations regarding protection of certain habitat types and permitting processes for structural developments in the landscape. Currently, almost 10% of terrestrial Denmark is designated as protected areas under the Nature Protection Act.
  • The Forestry Act (“Skovloven“, consolidation Act no. 122 of 26 January 2017) – This Act includes, for instance, provisions regarding conservation of forests and aims to contribute to increasing forest areas in Denmark.
  • The Danish Spatial Planning Act (“Planloven“, 1992) – The act includes an obligation for the municipalities to designate and formulate guidelines for the administration of valuable nature areas and ecological corridors and networks (“økologiske forbindelser”, “grønne korridorer” or “grønne strukturer”) (IEEP, 2010) as well as the Green Map of Denmark.
  • The National Park Act (“Nationalparkloven“, 2016) – The Act authorises the Minister for the Environment to establish national parks and stipulates rules and regulations related to national parks.
  • Land Distribution Act (“Jordfordelingsloven“, 2005) – This Act is intended to simplify and rationalise the process of land distribution and public trade of land. One aim of land distribution is to optimise the network of different land uses to protect and improve natural and environmental values in the landscape.



Green infrastructure is also being promoted in regional and local initiatives, projects and strategies, including:

  • Aarhus, the second largest city in Denmark, has successfully implemented an afforestation programme in the urban fringe areas by adopting a partnership approach. One of the main drivers for the program has been to safeguard ground water quality. The Aarhus Municipal Plan does not refer explicitly to “green infrastructure”, but the concept is mentioned in the Nature Quality Plan (one of the annexes to the Municipal Plan). Aarhus Municipality is also restoring the Aarhus River that runs through the city, a measure that is considered to be another successful example of GI development in Denmark (Stahl Olafsson et al., 2015).
  • The 2016 document outlining the foundation of the Danish Government’s work (“regeringsgrundlag”) explicitly mentioned two nature restoration projects under the development of the Green Map of Denmark (described above). The two projects are Søborg Lake which was drained in the 1870s and Ekkodalen, the largest bog area on Bornholm. Restoring these two areas is intended to support biodiversity, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and leakage of nitrogen and to promote public recreation (Regeringen, 2016).
  • Co-create Copenhagen is a vision for Copenhagen in the technical and environmental area. The vision has three aims: ‘A Liveable City’, ‘A City with an edge’ and ‘A Responsible City’. One of the tools for achieving this vision was to enhance green spaces and the number of trees in the city. A plan to plant an additional 100,000 trees was approved in 2016.
  • According to the “CPH 2025 Climate Plan”, 2011 - 2025, the city aims to become Europe’s first carbon neutral city by 2025. As part of the plan, the city will create additional green areas, pocket parks, green roofs and green walls throughout the city.
  • Connect Habitats (LIFE09 NAT/DK/000371; 2010 - 2013) was a LIFE-funded project to restore dry grasslands in Bøjden Nor on the island of Fyn. By buying 25 ha of land and establishing 5 ha of wetlands and two bird-islands, the project was able to protect and enhance the vulnerable coastal lagoon habitat.
  • “Life70” (LIFE11 NAT/DK/894; 2012-2018) is another LIFE-funded Danish project that aims at restoring rare wet habitats by 2018. The project involves eight Danish environmental authorities and covers 790 ha in eleven Natura 2000 areas, mainly on the island of Fyn, but also on Langeland and central Jutland.
  • LIFE IP Natureman – The Farmer as a Manager of Nature: aiming at a favourable conservation status for Natura 2000 sites by making nature management a sound branch of farming. Application for an Integrated LIFE Nature project has been submitted to the EU Commission in April 2017. The project covers eleven Natura 2000 sites in Himmerland and Kronjylland and is a collaboration between the Danish Nature Agency and eight municipalities and the Farmers Organizations.




The Danish Rural Development Programme 2007-2013 supported, amongst other things, the planting of hedgerows. Reimbursement of 40-60% has been made available to farmers for the cost of establishing 1-7 rowed hedges or woodlots, thereby reducing soil erosion rates significantly.

In the years 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019, a similar national scheme is being implemented to support hedgerows. Its main purpose is to increase biodiversity in the open agricultural land. Reimbursement of approximately 50% will be available to the farmer.

Until 2020, 4,500 ha of carbon-rich organic soils are to be set aside to recreate or improve natural habitat to support biodiversity and climate mitigation. To achieve this, farmers who currently cultivate these soils e.g. by continuous drainage activities, will be eligible for grants to take such areas permanently out of operation as compensation for lost income. In addition, the Government has pledged to investigate the opportunities for a proactive supporting measure targeting farmers and encouraging them to seek grants for nature conservation measures across larger connected areas across different ownership.



Pre-industrial Denmark was almost entirely covered by forest, but by the early 1900s most forest had been cut down due to the expanding agriculture and to provide, for example, fuel. Since then, the use of fossil fuels, import of timber and requirements to preserve forests according to the Forest Act (“Skovloven”, 2004) have contributed to forests today covering about 14.5% of the country.

New (state) forests are established by Naturstyrelsen in cooperation with municipalities and waterworks. In the 2016 agreement “Naturpakken”, the Danish Government pledged to set aside 13,300 ha state forest to protect biodiversity. New forests are also established by private landowners who can apply for grants, and by private forest owners who voluntarily set aside forest for biodiversity purposes. Furthermore, a new national forestry programme will be launched, and all forests with particularly high biological value will be mapped and registered and land owners encouraged to voluntarily protect such forests.


Urban policy

Copenhagen was awarded the 2014 European Green Capital for being a highly successful model for the rest of Europe and beyond[1]. Since 2014, Copenhagen Municipality has adopted several strategies relevant to the creation and support of GI. The strategy Nature in Copenhagen (“Bynatur i København 2015-2025”) aims to ensure that the city develops into a “green and climate-friendly” city. It has two primary goals – to create more nature in Copenhagen and to improve the quality of the natural areas in Copenhagen. The strategy details 30 different measures intended to contribute to these aims. Measures include, for instance, an action plan for planting an additional 100,000 trees in the city.

Based on a commitment made in the strategy Urban Nature in Copenhagen 2015-2025, Copenhagen Municipality has also adopted a new policy for trees in the city – Copenhagen tree planting policy, “Københavns Kommunes træpolitik” 2016-2025. The policy – outlining five political principles for management of urban trees – aims to make trees a greater priority in the city without hampering city development and ultimately achieving a 20% coverage of canopy in the city.

Green roofs are part of the City of Copenhagen’s Climate Plan and Climate Adaptation Plan as well as the City’s Strategy for Biodiversity. The requirement for green roofs are also integrated in the Municipality Plan 2015, mandating green roofs for all new buildings in new planned areas where buildings are suitable and made with a flat roof (up to 30 degree angle).


Spatial planning

Denmark underwent radical administrative reform of local government structures in 2007, leading for instance to a new, more decentralised approach to spatial planning. Municipalities are today the main spatial planning authorities, and the Municipal Plans are legally binding for authorities and the main central cross-sector planning instruments. As outlined above, Danish municipalities are to include their contribution to the Green Map of Denmark into municipal plans from 2017 onwards. Before this date, the municipalities had to plan for national nature priorities by designating and formulating guidelines for the administration of valuable nature areas and ecological corridors including both existing nature areas and corridors and potential nature areas and potential corridors forming green networks (“økologiske forbindelser”, “grønne korridorer” or “grønne strukturer”) (IEEP, 2010). The Green Map of Denmark is giving further guidelines to the planning of a green network.


Water management

Denmark’s official green brand – State of Green – is a public-private partnership consortium founded by the Danish Government. State of Green published a white paper in 2016 on rainwater management and Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS), including for instance green roofs. The white paper presents state-of-the-art solutions and innovative examples as inspiration for different stakeholders.

Furthermore, the national afforestation project prioritises establishment of new forests close to cities and where they can contribute to protect groundwater[2].


Disaster risk reduction

In relation to the national afforestation project, the flooding mitigating function of forests is acknowledged.


Marine and coastal policy

The Danish implementation of the EU Maritime Spatial Planning Directive is ongoing and a national Act was published in June 2016. The programme of measures under the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive is expected to be published in 2017. Denmark has designated nearly 18% as Natura 2000 areas at sea. In order to secure a representative and interconnected network of marine protected areas in Kattegat, Denmark has designated an additional six protected areas under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.

The Government has set aside DKK 10 million (c. EUR 1.3 million) to restore stone reef structures, in particular in marine Natura 2000 areas, in order to support marine biodiversity.


Transport infrastructure

Prior to construction of a new Danish road or railway, an EIA is carried out. The process aims to ensure that a detailed assessment of adverse and beneficial environmental effects of the planned infrastructure is carried out. Fauna passages and other structures are constructed on new roads and railways, intended to increase the crossing of transport infrastructure by animals. All connecting elements, such as tunnels, viaducts, stream or river crossings, culverts and passages designed for animals are integrated in the infrastructure project. The overall aim is to maintain the permeability of the transport infrastructure for wildlife and thereby ensure the connectivity of the habitats at a larger scale.


Energy infrastructure

Prior to construction of new energy infrastructure, either an EIA or an EIA screening is carried out to assess adverse and potential beneficial environmental effects of the infrastructure and that appropriate measures for mitigating negative impacts are considered, e.g. drilling under particularly sensitive nature types and habitats when laying cables.


Tourism and leisure; Health; Education, sport and culture

The national afforestation project acknowledges that being in the outdoors has positive effects on public health and that forests are the most frequently used natural areas for recreation in Denmark with some 70 million visits annually. The public is free to roam in the state forests established by Naturstyrelsen.

Danish summer house owners are encouraged to allow nature to „move in“ to their properties, in order to increase the amount of habitat for vulnerable species. The Danish Government has set aside DKK 2 million to fund a communications campaign providing inspiration and guidance to summer house owners.



The Government has pledged to contribute DKK 48 million (c. EUR 6.5 million) to two new LIFE projects in Denmark, co-financed by the EU.

The Government’s reafforestation scheme has been funded via the Danish Nature Protection Act (“Naturbeskyttelsesloven”, 1997) and co-funded by water utilities and municipal funds (co-funding needs to amount to at least 50% of the total cost for the EPA to support the project)[3].

In January 2015, the Danish Government launched a new independent Nature Fund (“Den Danske Naturfond”) – a public-private partnership together with VILLUM FONDEN and Aage V. Jensen Naturfond. The Government contributes DKK 500 million DKK (c. EUR 67 million), VILLUM FONDEN DKK 250 million (c. EUR 34 million) and Aage V. Jensen Naturfond DKK 125 million (EUR 17 million). The overarching goal of the fund is to improve terrestrial and marine environmental quality in Denmark and its activities are regulated in the Danish Nature Fund Act (“Lov om Den Danske Naturfond”), adopted by Parliament in 2014. The fund supports, for instance, projects which contributes to a concrete expansion and/or improvement of natural areas.

Green infrastructure initiatives, such as afforestation, carbon-wetlands and wetlands, are financed through EAFRD measures by 75-100%. Other initiatives are financed fully nationally, such as hedgerows.



5.1  Best practice/points of excellence

Denmark has been recognised and awarded for its efforts to create liveable urban areas in which GI plays an important role. The Copenhagen European Green City award from 2014 has already been mentioned above. In addition, the 2016 Nordic Council of Minister’s Nordic Built Cities Challenge award went to an innovative use of “blue-green infrastructure” to manage rainwater from cloudbursts in the Hans Tavsen's Park in Copenhagen[4].


5.2  Challenges/gaps/needs

Denmark is densely populated and highly urban and sub-urban, with high competition for space and potentially limited opportunities for GI development. Meanwhile, agriculture is an important industry in the country and the greening of agricultural land and management practices is likely to continue to pose a challenge in terms of development of GI. Significant tendencies for trade-offs between cultural and regulating ecosystem services on the one hand, and provisioning services on the other, have been identified (Turner et al., 2014). The Danish Government agreed on a Nature Package (Naturpakken) in May 2016 and a package regarding Food and Agriculture (Fødevare og Landbrugspakke) in December 2016. These policies will constitute the framework for furthering activities on GI.


5.3  Opportunities

As outlined above, several national and regional strategic documents have been adopted in the most recent years with direct relevance to development of GI. There seems to be an interest among relevant policy makers in the concept of connectivity between natural areas and increasing the amount and quality of nature in the landscape – both for the sake of nature conservation and human wellbeing.


5.4  Benefits

 [No information obtained]



  • Denmark has accomplished a full-scale mapping of its ecosystems and provided an overview of the status of the ongoing ecosystem service mapping for 16 ecosystem services. A follow-up MAES project will illustrate synergies and trade-offs between six ecosystems services and biodiversity and will be published in 2017.

Link to the work on "Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystems and their Services": MAES-related developments in Denmark

  • Det Digitale Naturkort – the national nature map providing basis for the municipalities’ development of the Green Map of Denmark.
  • GIS data and tools related to land use and plans, e.g. water and nature plans.
  • State of Green launched a white paper in 2016 called creating green liveable cities[5], including aspects relevant to both green and blue infrastructure.





Bech, L,  Sohn, I, Schaefer, B, Estevan, H (2015). Best practices in regional SPP/PPI networks: Partnership on Green Public Procurement, Denmark. Accessed on 13.10.2016 at

Doswald, N and Osti, M (2011). Ecosystem-based approaches to adaptation and mitigation – good practice examples and lessons learned in Europe. BfN Skripten 306. Accessed on 13.10.2016 at

EEA (2011). Green infrastructure and territorial cohesion. Technical report No 18/2011- Accessed on 13.10.2016 at

Hoffmann, C C and Baattrup-Pedersen, A (2007) Re-establishing freshwater wetlands in Denmark. Ecological Engineering, No 30, (2) pp157-166.

IEEP (2010) Green infrastructure country file: Denmark. Project for DG Environment, Green infrastructure implementation and efficiency. ENV.B.2./SER/2010/0059.

Klimatilpasning (n.d.). Green roofs Copenhagen. Accessed on 13.10.2016 at

LIFE (2013). LIFE Platrom Meeting – Östersund 2013 – Project catalogue. Accessed on 13.10.2016 at

Miljo Metropolen (2011). Copenhagen Carbon Neutral by 2025: Copenhagen Climate Adaptation Plan. Accessed on 13.10.2016 at

Naumann, S, Davis, M, Kaphengst, T, Pieterse, M and Rayment, M (2011). Design, implementation and cost elements of Green Infrastructure projects. Final report to the European Commission, DG Environment, Contract no. 070307/2010/577182/ETU/F.1, Ecologic Institute and GHK Consulting.

Regeringen (2016) Regeringsgrundlag Marienborgaftalen 2016 - For et friere, rigere og mere trygt Danmark. Report 2016/18:5.

Stahl Olafsson A., Hjorth Caspersen, O., and Steen Møller, M. (2015) Aarhur, Denmark: Case Study City Portrait; part of a GREEN SURGE study on urban green infrastructure planning and governance in 20 European cities, Københavns Universitet (UCPH), Denmark.

TEEB (ed) (2011). The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity in National and International Policy Making. Edited by Patrick ten Brink. Earthscan, London and Washington.

Trinomics, ALTERRA, Arcadis, Risk & Policy Analysis, STELLA Consulting, and Regional Environmental Centre (2016). 'Green Infrastructure in Denmark', in Supporting the Implementation of Green Infrastructure, Final Report to the European Commission under Service Contract ENV.B.2/SER/2014/0012, Annex I.

Turner, Odgaard, Bøcher, Dalgaard, & Svenning. (2014). Bundling ecosystem services in Denmark: Trade-offs and synergies in a cultural landscape. Landscape and Urban Planning, 125, 89-104.





[5] State of Green (2016) Urban Innovation for Livable Cities – A holistic approach to sustainable city solutions Version 1.0. Available here.