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When Blue-green infrastructure turns white

Published: 10 June 2022

Urban planning and the design of urban environments have often been based on an economic and location-optimizing perspective. But since the introduction of the concept of ecosystem services, infrastructure that contributes with multiple benefits has received more attention

Previous research has been conducted with the aim of, for example, identifying, quantifying and economically evaluating ecosystem services provided by blue-green infrastructure. Consequently, blue-green infrastructure has been recognized as a facilitator of a healthier urban lifestyle, creating economic value, increasing the resilience of urban environments to a rapidly changing climate and reducing the impact of polluted stormwater on receiving waters.

Although both research and the practical work with blue-green infrastructure have been conducted in several different climates, the systems have often been regarded as a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution where the benefits from blue (water) and green (plants) components have been highlighted. However, in several parts of the world, blue-green infrastructure is in periods neither blue nor green but e.g. white (covered with snow) or yellow/brown (due to dormant plants and drought). In places outside the temperate climate zones, the consequences of this for blue-green infrastructure have not yet been properly evaluated, neither in terms of their technical-environmental function nor with regard to ecosystem services.

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A recent study identifies the potential for ecosystem services from white (snow-covered) urban environments. A theoretical framework was developed to extend the concept of blue-green infrastructure to blue-green-white infrastructure. Although the technical functionality of blue-green systems is well known, its performance in cold climates (such as blue-green-white systems) poses additional challenges, especially when ecosystem services are included. However, by expanding the concept of blue-green infrastructure to blue-green-white infrastructure, urban services and public amenities functioning throughout all seasons are facilitated across a temperature range of -30°C to + 30°C. Yet, this expansion also implies challenges often regarding regulations, economical and administrative responsibilities of snow and stormwater management.  One conclusion of the study was that a better understanding of these challenges needs to be developed.

 

Pär Sagrelius

Sagrelius, Pär - Industrial Ph.D student

Organisation: Urban Water Engineering, Architecture and Water, Department of Civil, Environmental and Natural Resources Engineering