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Green Infrastructure

How we conserve and manage our green infrastructure assets is critical to the sustainability and resilience or our rural and urban environments. The SRI's research focuses on the conservation of GI systems and increasing understanding of the ecosystem values they can provide to our communities.

Key areas of focus:

  • Peatland conservation
  • Wetland Agriculture 
  • Urban Green Infrastructure 
  • Invertebrate conservation

Green Infrastructure - key areas

Human impact on natural systems is at an all-time high causing global declines in biodiversity and ecosystem health. With predicted increases in populations and urbanisation, this pressure will intensify. An increasingly urbanised world, combined with intensive agriculture, forestry and exploitation of rural landscapes, freshwater and coastal marine ecosystems, has led to numerous environmental impacts associated with the loss of biodiversity. In order to reverse these trends it is necessary to understand how these systems function, interdependencies between them, and develop conservation and management strategies in order to build resilience and ensure sustainability. The recognition of the natural environment as green infrastructure able support the biodiversity necessary to provide a range of ecosystem services is a key step within this process in terms of understanding and communicating this value. The SRI carries out research under a range of themes associated with green infrastructure with the aim of supporting this process.

Areas of activity

Peatland activities in the SRI covers cutting-edge research through to the provision of scientific support and guidance on peatland issues to NGOs, government agencies and inter-governmental bodies. The SRI has an unparalleled track record in this area and has helped bring a once-neglected area of research firmly onto the agenda of governments and public agencies at national and international level.

Key projects and contracts: Plantlife International’s Munsary Peatlands Reserve; Natural England - Peatland conservation legal cases; Peatlands and carbon; Peatland Briefing Notes
Wetland Agriculture is an emerging research area in the UK, focussing on the sustainable use of wet peatland soils for agricultural purposes, potential crops may be used for growing media, medicine, biomass, building material textiles and even food. This is an important research theme as it encourages the restoration and wise use of our wetland habitats.

Key projects and contracts: Sphagnum Farming

Invertebrates really are the little things that run the world. Their conservation is vital for global sustainability and resilience to secure a future for ecosystem services such as pollination, waste recycling, freshwater cleaning, soil creation and enrichment, food provision and pest control. Indeed, it is no underestimation to state that if the invertebrates disappear, the world's ecosystems would collapse.

Often overlooked in planning and legislation, maligned in the media and misunderstood by the public, it is vital that invertebrates are protected and conserved through appropriate habitat management. SRI leads international research on the ecology of invertebrates and the habitat design and management requirements for their conservation. 

Key projects and contracts: UEL's Beetle Bump, Buglife Stepping Stones Project, Buglife Urban Buzz project, Essex County Council bumblebee conservation, Olympic Park biosolar roof monitoring, Greater Thames Marshes Nature Improvement Area, Thames Estuary 2100 Thames Grazing Marsh scoping study, Open Mosaic Habitat Conservation and Management, Green roof pollinator study.

We live in an increasingly urbanised world where more than half the population already live in urban areas. Built upon old models of high-density living and economic development, towns and cities suffer the loss of biodiversity and numerous environmental impacts including:
  • urban heat island effect - leading to problems with air quality, energy use and ambient temperatures
  • large expanses of impervious surfaces - resulting in rapid rainwater run‐off and overloading of storm drains causing localised flooding
  • reduction in water quality and the quantity of water held in the soil
  • reduction in surface seepage to re‐charge groundwater aquifers
  • reduced possibilities for contact with nature resulting in a reduction in the health and well‐being of communities
The incorporation of green infrastructure into cities can help alleviate these problems and contribute to the provision of ecosystem services. UGI is a critical field of study for the future of healthy and resilient cities. SRI leads international research on the design, planning and monitoring of UGI and has been instigating a range of cutting edge initiatives to demonstrate the multifunctional benefits of nature based solutions in challenging urban environments  

Key projects and contracts: TURAS, Renfrew Gardens, LIFE+ Climate Proofing Housing, Barking Riverside Green Infrastructure Experiments, Tower Hamlets SuDS Guidance, TfL green roof monitoring, Museum of London Green roof water attenuation monitoring, TW- Rainfall runoff gauge development, Stevenage Pocket Park, Green Roof Aggregates, UEL green roof experiment, Green Roof industry standards, Biodiversity Hotspot Mapping - City University.