Strategies for green infrastructure promotes the development of networks of healthy ecosystems, for the benefit of biodiversity as well as ecosystem services.
Photo: Landscape, Pixabay, jarmoluk

By Maria von Post, Åsa Knaggård, Johanna Olsson Alkan, Ola Olsson, Anna Persson, and Johan Ekroos.

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As biodiversity is decreasing at an alarming rate, new policies to halt this development is needed. Green infrastructure (GI), could be one such tool, found in policy around the world, including in an EU strategy. Although member countries are not forced to implement GI, it is currently being developed as national policies throughout the EU, for example in Sweden. The concept of GI is broad and open for interpretations, but it can in general terms be described as the development of a green network of healthy ecosystems, contributing to ecological, economic and social benefits. The vagueness of the concept lends itself to GI being seen as a solution to a wide array of policy problems, including the loss of biodiversity, the deterioration of ecosystem services and climate change, all incorporated in both the EU and the Swedish GI policy.  

Such broad purpose policies could contribute to solving multiple and overlapping problems but could also lead to unintended trade-offs and misguided measures. We studied the policy development in one European country, Sweden, to assess what problems it intends to solve and what possibilities it has to contribute to biodiversity conservation.

Using a text analysis method, we show that the Swedish GI policy consists of a mix of policy ideas developed in Sweden and the EU. Despite the national intention to provide opportunities to conserve biodiversity on land used for other purposes and thereby provide additional conservation measures, the focus on ecosystem services in the EU strategy increasingly influences the Swedish policy as it is being developed.

Our analysis shows that the Swedish GI policy will lead to measures that are less costly and less disruptive of existing land use activities. Such measures will focus on ecosystem services rather than on biodiversity conservation, and on ecosystem services with direct benefits for the land owner rather than those with more dispersed benefits. Without a clear national prioritization of biodiversity and additional funding, the Swedish GI policy will not be able to deliver on biodiversity protection.