Green infrastructure


Around 50% of Latvia’s territory is covered by forests, making it one of the greenest countries of the EU. The current Latvian Natura 2000 network has 333 sites (including seven marine areas); terrestrial Natura 2000 sites occupy 12% or 787,729 ha of the territory of Latvia. Nevertheless, data demonstrate that there is a decreasing connectivity between habitats (EEA, 2015). Currently in Latvia there are few plans or activities directly relating to Green Infrastructure, e.g., flood management in cities and Natura 2000 development. However, there is high potential for GI to be further developed through several existing programmes and policy areas.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development is responsible for the protection of environment and nature, maintenance and rational use of natural resources and land use. The State Environmental Service ensures implementation of the legislative framework in the area of environmental protection and natural resources. An Environmental Protection Fund - consisting of revenues from the main state budget stipulated by the Law on natural resource tax - is managed by a dedicated administration (the Environmental Protection Fund of Latvia Administration). The Environment State Bureau carries out environmental impact assessments of proposed activities and planning documents. The Nature Conservation Agency ensures implementation of unified nature protection policy in Latvia.

  • Latvia’s National Development Plan 2014-2020 is the main medium-term strategic policy for the country’s development. It includes an objective on natural capital, which seeks to “Maintain the natural capital as the basis for sustainable economic growth and promote its sustainable uses while minimising natural and human risks to the quality of the environment.” The plan includes GI-related targets such as increases in organic farming area, increasing forest coverage, promoting the sustainable use and biodiversity of land and other natural resources and species conservation measures (Saeima of Latvia, 2012). 
  • The Sustainable Development Strategy of Latvia until 2030 (2010) mentions green corridors as part of environmentally friendly and comfortable transport within the city and acknowledges that maintaining natural capital and ecosystem services can lead to opportunities for Latvia in the future while natural capital decreases in other parts of the world. The plan states that the government should introduce a plan for the preservation and restoration of natural capital at state level, which would also include spatial planning of nature preservation and restoration. Low value abandoned agricultural lands should be reforested (Saeima of Latvia, 2010).
  • The National Biodiversity Programme does not explicitly mention GI, but includes objectives such as: promoting the conservation of the traditional landscape structures, ensuring sustainable use of natural recourses, promoting sustainable agriculture, creating protected areas in coastal waters, designating more protected sand and dune areas, protecting natural forest habitats, reducing the rate of fragmentation and protect migration paths, developing a network of protected meadows which have highest biological value and integrating this network into physical planning.
  • The Sustainable Development Strategy of Riga until 2030 and Development Programme of Riga 2014-2020 (Riga City Council, City Development Department, 2014) do not explicitly mention GI, but establish several measures to protect and strengthen GI for urban ecosystem services. These include expanding green corridors and accessibility of waterfronts. Goal 15 of the Development Programme focuses on environmental quality and covers a number of GI-related areas, including improving the quality and accessibility of urban green spaces and conservation of water quality for recreational purposes. The "Growth and Employment" programme envisages green infrastructure solutions as a priority where they are technically and economically possible and efficient, including ecosystem-based approaches for the activities reducing flood and erosion risks in affected ecosystems - grasslands, wetlands, dunes and forests.
  • Latvian ecological network was set up in 1998 in order to serve as a frame for a network of green structures to ensure the preservation of biological and landscape diversity, promotion of improvement of urban micro-climates and creation of the visual impression of “green” cities. This initiative remained as a project, however, and was never implemented.
  • LIFE COASTLAKE - Restoration of Bittern habitats in two coastal lakes (9/2013 – 8/2017): the long-term objective of this project is to improve the conservation status of the Bittern Botaurus stellaris in Latvia and EU according to the framework for species conservation set by EU Species Action plan. Short term objectives include monitoring and evaluating the effects of restoration measures and using this information for future management guidelines, and enhancing public understanding of the ecological, economic and social values of coastal wetlands by explaining the ecosystem services concept (LDF, n.d.).
  • Protected GI and water bodies in Zemale Region and North Lithuania: Nine municipalities in Latvia and Lithuania came together to jointly implement the motto ‘Let’s make our cities greener’. The project focuses on urban areas and improving the green infrastructure therein. Great emphasis was placed on the collaboration between the architects and city planners of both countries in trying to find the best way to balance the aesthetics, ecology and functionality of the green areas (Trinomics et al., 2016).
  • LIFE Nature project - Protection and management of coastal habitats in Latvia (LIFE02 NAT/LV/008498): The Baltic Sea coast of Latvia is an area of outstanding biological diversity. The number of visitors to the coastal zone is steadily growing. To preserve vulnerable coastal habitats, while promoting the development of the local economy, efforts are made to maintain and restore endangered habitats, improve knowledge by mapping the priority natural habitats, manage human activities, and educate the public about the importance of protecting coastal habitats. The project aims at the integrated development of the Baltic Sea coast into a core area of high biodiversity value, which can act as a hub for Green Infrastructure and also provide recreational and tourism benefits. The project: (1) developed a basic framework for sustainable management of the coastal protection belt of the Baltic Sea in Latvia; (2) promoted a network of protected nature areas and micro reserves of the Baltic Sea coast; and (3) raised public awareness of the need for protecting habitats of Community importance. The project area was the entire Baltic Sea coast in Latvia: a 300-metre-wide coastal zone following the coastline, with a total surface area of 18,000 ha. The total cost of the project was EUR 1.7 million (Trinomics et al., 2016).
  • Restoration of the Norina river: A former mill dam was demolished, thus allowing salmonids to migrate up the river to their spawning grounds. This was a historic moment as the fish had not been able to go upstream due to the dam for around 100 years. River Norina is a left bank tributary (about 11 kilometres long) of the river Salaca. The river is located in Salaca Valley Nature Park. The restoration of salmonid migration path in river Norina is particularly important because Salaca river basin is the fourth most productive salmonid river in the whole Baltic Sea. It is predicted that river Norina will be used as a spawning ground mostly by sea trout (LDF, 2015).
  • Establishing Green Infrastructure in the City of Liepaja included increasing green space and accessibility, mainly in the area surrounding the port and establishing green corridors in the East-West, from the Liepaja Lake to the Baltic Sea, and North-South, from a forest area to a densely populated residential area. The purpose was to make walking more pleasant and healthy and to promote walking and use of public transport. A secondary goal was to increase biodiversity in the city (Grupa93, 2011). 






The EU Natura 2000 network is at the core of EU's Green Infrastructure. 11.53% of the national land area of Latvia is covered by Natura 2000 (EU average 18.1%), with Birds Directive SPAs covering 10.23% (EU average 12.3%). Latvia has designated 332 Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) covering  an area of 12241,37 km2, from which 7877.3 km2 correspond to the terrestrial part of the country's share of the Natura 2000 network, and 4364.07 km2 to marine sites. Regarding Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for birds designated under the Birds Directive, Latvia has designated 102 sites covering 6609.6 km2, from which 6183.9 correspond to terrestrial sites (97) and 425.7 km2 to marine sites (European Commission, 2017).



The multiple functions of forests are recognised within forest policy in Latvia and fragmentation and ecological degradation has to be prevented (Zemkopibas Ministrija, n.d.).





In the framework of a previous study on GI (Trinomics et al., 2016), national experts identified the following gaps and opportunities that could enhance GI implementation in the country:



• Lack of general strategic framework for Green Infrastructure policy development.

• Lack of know-how and awareness (especially at the municipal level) and public participation.



• Development of an inter-sectoral coordination mechanism (involving different departments of Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development of the Republic of Latvia, namely Environmental, Nature Conservation, Regional Development and Spatial Planning Departments and Nature Conservation Agency, as well as other stakeholders and line ministries, e.g., Ministry of Transports and Ministry of Agriculture).

• Development of assessment and an incentives system and instruments for Green Infrastructure development.

• Progress required on “Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystems and their Services” (MAES).

• Analysis of available funding opportunities, development of programming for the next periods including opportunities for developing Green Infrastructure (not only environmental, but also rural development programmes, development of new local funding instruments for Green Infrastructure development, etc.).

• Promotion efforts emphasising socio-economic growth benefits of Green Infrastructure.

• Capacity building and training of relevant stakeholders to improve interaction across and between disciplines and sectors relevant for ‘mainstreaming’ Green Infrastructure.

• Capitalisation of the good potential for climate change adaptation integration in Green Infrastructure projects.



  • LIFE Project Viva Grass - Integrated planning tool to ensure viability of grasslands (LIFE13 ENV/LT/000189, 6/2014 – 11/2018): This project aims to prevent loss of High Nature Value grassland and increase effectiveness of semi-natural grassland management by developing an Integrated Planning tool. The tool is based on an ecosystem services approach and aims to strengthen linkages between social, economic, environmental and agricultural policies in grassland management. The project also demonstrates opportunities for multifunctional use of grassland ecosystem services as a basis for sustainable development of rural areas, by case studies in nine demo areas in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. The project will develop policy and legal recommendations for sustainable use of grasslands, establish ecosystem-based solutions for grasslands as demonstration projects, and monitor their socioeconomic and environmental impact. To ensure spread of good practices identified by the project, an active stakeholder network will be built up and capacity building programmes developed (Vivagrass, n.d.). 
  • Latvia has carried out MAES for its marine waters, including the internal marine waters, territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). It was performed in 2016 as one of the steps for implementation of the ecosystem based approach within development of the national Maritime Spatial Plan (MSP) (BISE, 2016).



Ministry of the Environmental Protection and Regional Development of the Republic of Latvia (n.d.). Environmental protection in Latvia. GreenInfranet presentation. Accessed 13 October 2016:



Bertelsman Stiftung (2016). Sustainable Governance Indicators: Latvia. Accessed 13.10.2016:

BISE (2016). MAES-related developments in Latvia. Accessed 6 April 2017:

EEA (2015). State of the Environment 2015. Latvia. 13.10.2016:

European Commission (2013). Green Infrastructure (GI) – Enhancing Europe’s Natural Capital. COM(2013) 249 final.

European Commission (2017). The EU Environmental Implementation Review Country Report – Latvia:

Grupa93 (2011). Liepājas pilsētas teritorijas plānojums 2011 – 2023. Liepājas pilsētas zaĜo struktūru koncepcija. Priekšlikumi plānojuma risinājumiem.

LDF (n.d.). Restoration of Bittern habitats in two coastal lakes in Latvia (LIFE COASTLAKE). Accessed 6 April 2017:

LDF (2015). Restoration of Norina river in Northern part of Latvia. Accessed 30 March 2017:

Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development of the Republic of Latvia (n.d.) Overview of Environmental Policy Documents.

Ministry of the Environmental Protection and Regional Development of the Republic of Latvia (n.d.). Environmental protection in Latvia. GreenInfranet presentation. Accessed 13 October 2016:

Riga City Council, City Development Department (2014).

Saeima of Latvia (2010). Sustainable Development Strategy of Latvia until 2030.

Saeima of Latvia (2012). National Development Plan of Latvia for 2014–2020. Accessed 13.10.2016:

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

Vivagrass (n.d.). Integrated planning tool. Accessed 6 April 2017:

Zemkopibas Ministrija (n.d.). Latvijas meža politika. Accessed 6 April 2017: