On this week’s #SummerScienceFriday, we continue our Green Infrastructure Series by discussing the multi-benefits of green infrastructure. Not only can it provide water and energy benefits, but habitat, health, educational, and social benefits too!
Since urbanization is the leading cause of habitat loss in LA, green infrastructure can help to replace impervious surfaces with green space and habitat for wildlife. Habitat is made up of four components: food, water, cover, and space. Choosing native plants, diverse plants, and keeping healthy soils are important to supporting greater biodiversity. Native plants attract native species, diverse plants attract diverse populations, and soil is one of the most diverse habitats on earth (1). Healthy soils will support healthy populations of bacteria, fungi, and worms! Soil biodiversity influences soil structure, nutrient availability, carbon sequestration, and food web interaction, which will inherently create a space for native plants and animals to thrive (2).
Improved Public Health
Green infrastructure, like increased tree canopy, has been found to reduce ozone and particulate pollution enough to significantly reduce hospital admissions, lost work days, and mortality rates. In general, green infrastructure increases exposure to the natural environment, reduces exposure to harmful substances and conditions, provides opportunity for recreation and physical activity, improves safety, promotes community identity and a sense of well-being, and provides economic benefits at both the community and household level, all known to improve public health and safety (3).
Urban agriculture also improves health outcomes. There is great potential for food production to be part of GI designs, increasing local food security and sustainability, while also magnifying other GI benefits such as stormwater capture and carbon storage. Edible landscaping can be incorporated into several GI BMPs including green roofs, vertical walls, bioretention cells, community gardens, and urban forests to create edible green infrastructure (4).
Green infrastructure projects present a good opportunity to create public awareness of GI projects and educate surrounding communities on the causes and solutions of water quality issues. Educational opportunities can be enhanced throughout the implementation and maintenance of GI systems through the use of websites, workshops, and media campaigns. The creation of school curriculum around GI has been reinforced by statewide requirements for environmental education and efforts to connect students to natural environments through project-based or hands-on learning (5). Some examples of green infrastructure being used for learning opportunities include:
Using rainscapes to enhance student understanding of solutions to environmental sustainability challenges
Increase professional learning opportunities, instructional opportunities, and environmental literacy
Provide professional learning opportunities for teachers
Ensure students have the opportunity to learn about the environment in a natural setting
In addition to the educational benefits centered on youth and school settings, informal classroom settings such as community gardens, community science and restoration projects have also been proven to provide authentic educational experiences.
Features of green infrastructure like community urban gardens and open space can provide communities with food security, provide outdoor learning opportunities, and space for community events. Open space can also provide a place to showcase artwork from local artists, which can also bring communities together. Vegetation and trees can increase publicly available recreation areas, allowing urban residents to enjoy greenery without leaving the city. Additionally, vegetation and permeable pavements can reduce noise pollution by damping traffic, train, and plane noise (6).
Green Infrastructure Multi-Benefits for Schoolyards
Schoolyards have been shown to be a great place for green infrastructure innovation. In the last #SummerScienceFriday, we talked about the DROPS Project. Seeking these state funded opportunities are great ways to implement green infrastructure and secure its benefits for your school and community. Something as simple as planting more native plants, creating space for student artwork, maintaining planting areas on campus, or growing a garden for your class are also steps towards a greener, healthier, and community oriented campus.
Check out these resources below to learn more about how to incorporate green infrastructure on your campus!
Resources for Educators
LA County Public Works: Creating your own garden
University of Maryland Department of Landscape Architecture: Green Infrastructure as Outdoor Living Laboratories
CWH: DROPS Storymaps
Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District. (2018). Using Green Infrastructure to Enhance Urban Biodiversity in the MMSD Planning Area.
Giller, K., Beare, M., Lavelle, P., Izac, A., and Swift M. (1997). Agricultural intensification, soil biodiversity and agroecosystem function. Applied Soil Ecology, 6, 3-16.
EPA: Benefits of Green Infrastructure
The United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2011). Reusing Potentially Contaminated Landscapes: Growing Gardens in Urban Soils.
Montgomery County Public Schools. (2016). RainScapes For Schools.
EPA-Health Benefits of Green Infrastructure
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