Conserving and managing open and green spaces at both the regional and city scales is an essential element of ensuring productive and reliable green infrastructure systems. These spaces provide a range of ecological, social, and economic services to the communities and regions that surround them.
Regional Scale – At the regional scales, working landscapes such as farms and pastures, as well as naturally occurring grasslands provide a range of valuable ecosystem services for the region including food production; water and nutrient cycling; pollination services, and much more. Given population growth and urbanization trends in the US, the challenge will be to help agriculture and other “green and open space” lands compete for their place in a rapidly changing landscape.
City Scale – Parks and greenways within urban areas are also important for maintaining robust green infrastructure systems and vibrant communities. These features are multifunctional in that they simultaneously provide recreational and civic space, permeable surfaces to manage stormwater, and habitat for urban wildlife. As the American Planning Association points out, “they can even help shape urban form and reduce opposition to development, especially when planned in concert with other open spaces.”
Agricultural Land: Agricultural land provides extensive space for ecosystem services. Unlike forests the space is more carefully managed (water and nutrient input/output) and has a higher turnover due to crop yield. By extension, pastures and wetlands may be considered as agricultural land; though dedicated, they are not necessarily maintained.
How Cities Use Parks For Green Infrastructure – As part of their City Park Forum series, the American Planning Association identifies and examines four key points for city leaders to consider in why incorporating city parks as part of a systematic green infrastructure network makes sense.
Parks are Green Infrastructure – Parks & Recreation, the publication for park managers in the US describes the opportunity park leaders have to shape the sustainable development of cities, “Parks leaders have an extraordinary opportunity to show these elected officials and the public how our parks are the backbone of green infrastructure and are critical to the economic and environmental health of every community.”
Regional Agriculture and Its Connection to Green Infrastructure – The Washington Metro Region is rapidly developing and expanding urban area surrounded by agricultural areas. As such, the Washington Council of Governments has launched an initiative to support regional agricultural as an integrated element of their regional green infrastructure plan.