Green infrastructure’s contribution to multiple sectors

The EU’s Green Infrastructure Strategy recognizes the potential of green infrastructure to "make a significant contribution to the effective implementation of all policies” by delivering a range of benefits to different sectors in parallel. Contributions to the following sectors are outlined in more detail below, including each sector's link to green infrastructure, GI examples, benefits and links to further information.


Green infrastructure plays an important role in the protection of habitats and species, not least in urban areas; nature-rich areas function as core and hubs for biodiversity throughout Europe, including ecological networks and corridors as well as stepping stones within dense urban areas or between physically disconnected green areas.

Climate change adaptation

Adaptation measures aim to reduce the impacts or damages associated with climate change to the environment and society, increase resilience to impacts, and take advantage of new opportunities presented by changing climates. GI can contribute through e.g.:

  • restoring natural flood defenses
  • using tree species and forestry practices that are less vulnerable to storms and fires
  • implementing natural water retention measures
  • setting aside land corridors to help species migrate as habitat and food availability change

Examples of benefits:

  • using scarce water resources more efficiently
  • flood protection
  • reducing heat islands in urban areas


Energy transmission infrastructure contributes to habitat fragmentation, and the energy sector is the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions. GI can reduce the negative impacts of the energy sector via, e.g.:

  • projects that reduce an area’s energy demand
  • urban green spaces
  • street trees
  • green roofs and facades

Examples of benefits:

  • Reducing energy consumption
  • Provisioning of bioenergy resources
  • Sequestration and storage of carbon
  • Regulating indoor and outdoor climates

As buildings are responsible for 40% of energy consumption in the EU, green infrastructure could have a large impact.

Health and wellbeing

GI can make significant contributions to human mental and physical health by improving the physical environment and increasing the availability of amenities that facilitate healthy lifestyles. Examples of GI which can lead to such benefits include:

  • Urban green spaces for recreation
  • Street trees for air quality improvement and shade
  • Active and eco-tourism infrastructure in protected areas

Examples of benefits:

  • Regulating air and water quality
  • Abating noise
  • Regulating temperature and climate
  • Provisioning of space for physical activity, recreation, and relaxation

In some cases Green Infrastructure is associated with improved social cohesion and social welfare

Links to further information:

Factsheet “Green Infrastructure and Health
Collection of case studies and resources on Green Infrastructure in Health (CEEweb for Biodiversity)


Green Infrastructure is often a cost effective and efficient way of ensuring safe and reliable water resources. This includes contributions to flood protection as part of ecosystem-based Disaster Risk Reduction (ecoDRR) and often involves the following measures:

  • Natural Water Retention Measures (NWRM), i.e. multi-functional measures that use natural processes to safeguard water resources
  • Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS)
  • Renaturing flood plains (“giving room to the river” approaches)

Examples of benefits:

  • Regulation of water flows
  • Water purification and quality regulation
  • Provision of habitats for biodiversity
  • Water retention
  • Flood protection

Links to further information:

Factsheet “Green Infrastructure and Water
Nature-based solutions for water: UN World Water Development Report 2018 (UNDP 2018) -
Collection of case studies and resources on Green Infrastructure in Water (CEEweb for Biodiversity)

Agriculture and rural abandonment

Many areas that experience rural abandonment feature small-scale agriculture, which contains landscape elements that are important for biodiversity and ecosystem services and can become part of GI. GI is also the source of many services that support agricultural production (see benefits below). Examples of GI in this sector include:

  • Agroforestry systems
  • Hedgerows, buffer strips, trees, rock walls, and other small landscape elements
  • Retention ponds and swales

Examples of benefits: GI can provide important benefits for agriculture, and for areas affected by rural abandonment:

  • Pollination
  • Water provision for plant and animal farming
  • Regulation of soil quality
  • Erosion prevention
  • Disaster and fire risk reduction

Links to further information:

Factsheet “Green Infrastructure and Rural Abandonment
Collection of case studies and resources on Green Infrastructure in Agriculture (CEEweb for Biodiversity)


Functioning marine, coastal, and freshwater ecosystems are essential for a healthy and competitive fishing sector. Coastal, marine, and freshwater ecosystems can utilise green and blue infrastructure to help ensure that fishery resources remain resilient and productive into the future, e.g.:

  • Marine Spatial Planning and Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) – i.e. ensuring that the governance of marine and coastal areas happens based on ecosystem boundaries and not only on administrative boundaries
  • Fish ladders (allow migratory fish to pass waterway barriers like dams and locks)

Examples of benefits:

  • Increased resilience of fish catches
  • Employment and income benefits to fisheries, and collateral benefits to marine and freshwater ecotourism in healthy ecosystems (e.g. diving, sport/leisure fishing)
  • Improved bathing and drinking water quality from functioning marine and freshwater ecosystems

Links to further information:

European Commission information on Integrated Coastal Zone Management
European Commission information on Maritime Spatial Planning


Forests are a form of green infrastructure which provide many ecosystem services (see e.g. benefits section below). GI can improve soil and water cycles on which forestry depends for wood and forest product production. Examples of GI within this sector include:

  • Forestry carbon credit schemes
  • Urban forests
  • Mixed forestry systems
  • Restored forests

Examples of benefits:

  • Habitat provision for biodiversity
  • Reduced vulnerability to pests in forestry
  • Raw material provision
  • Carbon storage
  • Climate and water cycle regulation

Links to further information: State of the Environment Report 2015 – forests briefing (EEA 2015)


Green infrastructure can improve the resilience and functioning of ecosystems and help secure reliable flows of natural resources, reducing business and investment risks. Additionally sustainably produced products enjoy increasing market demand. This is applicable to a diversity of areas, such as clothing production, transportation infrastructure, food and forestry products, trade, and insurance and risk management. Links to GI can include, e.g.:

  • Payments for ecosystem services to maintain green infrastructure
  • Production systems for sustainably produced commodities

Examples of benefits:

  • Reduced investment risk, higher investment resilience
  • High cost-benefit ratio of investments
  • Enhance brand reputation and corporate responsibility

Links to further information:

Factsheet on GI and finance:

Tourism and leisure

Green infrastructure can creates spaces for healthy and sustainable tourism and leisure practices. In (peri-)urban and rural areas, GI can create new employment and income opportunities in active and ecotourism. Relevant examples within the tourism sector include:

  • Wilderness areas or managed landscapes with cycling and hiking paths
  • Information (e.g. signage) on local biodiversity, conservation measures, and green infrastructure measures
  • Urban tourism for sustainable green infrastructure architecture

Examples of benefits:

  • Reduced carbon, water, and waste impact of the tourism sector
  • Increased tourism and service/leisure industry income and employment
  • Opportunities for relaxation, recreation, and exercise, increasing physical and mental wellbeing
  • Increased aesthetic appeal of landscapes
  • Habitat provision for biodiversity
  • Increase acceptance for biodiversity protection by increasing awareness of benefits and improving the distribution of benefits among the population
  • Protecting cultural heritage
  • Creation of job opportunities

Links to further information:

Tourism in a Green Economy (UNEP and UNWTO 2012)


Green infrastructure can help reduce the carbon and environmental footprints of transport and mitigate the effects of habitat fragmentation caused by transport infrastructure through, e.g.:

  • Green bridges and eco-tunnels over/under roads and railways
  • Vegetated rail beds
  • Permeable and green surfaces in parking and bicycle parking spaces
  • Green noise barriers

Examples of benefits:

  • Reduced carbon impact of transport infrastructure
  • Increased habitat connectivity
  • Sustainable (urban) drainage, flood protection and water cycle regulation
  • Mitigating carbon emissions produced by transport and transport infrastructure
  • Reduce runoff and noise pollution

Links to further information:

Factsheet on GI and transport:

Urban development and cities

Green and blue features within and surrounding cities can be designed to be multifunctional network to deliver a range of benefits to society and the environment. These spaces can together promote, maintain and enhance quality of life in resource-efficient, compact and climate-resilient cities. GI elements within this context can include:

  • Green facades and roofs
  • Cycling and walking infrastructure
  • Urban gardens
  • Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS)
  • Restoration of brownfields or remediation of polluted sites
  • Parks, rivers, lakes and wilderness areas

Examples of benefits:

  • Improvements to sustainability of mobility and transport
  • Social cohesion and sustainable city development
  • Provisioning of habitats for biodiversity conservation and human recreation
  • Reduced energy usage due to improved temperature regulation on buildings
  • Reduced urban carbon and environmental footprints
  • Pollution and brownfield site remediation
  • Improved social, mental, and physical well-being of residents
  • Improved drainage and reduced flooding

Links to further information:

Factsheet “Green Infrastructure and Climate Adaptation
 "Urban adaptation to climate change in Europe 2016" (EEA 2016)