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An Overview of Green Infrastructures Contribution to Climate Change Adaptation

Sadahisa KATO Institute for Global Change Adaptation Science (ICAS), Ibaraki University
Abstract: This paper has summarized and synthesized the state-of-the-art understanding of the potential contributions of green infrastructure (GI) to climate change (CC) adaptation by asking the following questions: How does GI help us adapt to CC? What GI functions and services are useful for adapting to the impacts of CC? What issues need to be resolved for planning GI for CC adaptation? GI with multitude of benefits serves as a basis for developing resilient and sustainable landscapes. CC adaptation (CCA) is defined as options and measures to reduce the vulnerability of natural and human systems against actual or expected CC effects. GI can help mitigate and/or take advantage of various observed and projected CC impacts in Japan. For example, GI can provide better stormwater management by improving rainwater infiltration and reducing run-off. GI can provide functional corridors for plant and animal migration. GI can be a useful countermeasure to the urban heat island effect, expected to be exacerbated by CC. GI can also provide CO2 sinks and buffer zones against sea level rise. Barriers for GI implementation for CCA include a lack of watershed-based planning, high uncertainty of the climate projection and CC impacts at a municipal/site scale where land-use planning decisions are made, and a lack of coordination between land-use plans for different sectors at the prefectural and city/town scale. Possible solutions to overcoming these obstacles include applying the concepts such as learn by doing and safe-to-fail, taking into account co-benefits, and utilizing several holistic planning frameworks. In Japan GI planning is arguably most suitable at the regional (prefectural and multi-prefectural) scale, using greenspace master plans developed by local and regional governments. Keywords: green infrastructure, climate change adaptation, multifunctionality, co-benefits, greenspace master plan 1. Introduction Green infrastructure (GI) is an umbrella, greenspace conservation planning concept, advancing other related planning concepts such as greenways and ecological networks. The increasing popularity of GI applications in various regions of the world underscores its multitude of benefits2), 6), 11), 15), 19), 20). Meanwhile, climate change (CC) has emerged as a global issue with the increase in global greenhouse gas emissions due to human activities being attributed to the recent global warming10). The aspect of GI contribution to CC has begun to be documented6), 15) yet there are few studies that systematically reviewed, focusing on this aspect. This paper intends to fill in the gap by reviewing the latest literature on the potential roles which GI can play for adapting to CC. In particular, this paper aims to answer the following questions: How does GI help us adapt to CC? What GI functions and services are useful for adapting to the impacts of CC? What issues need to be resolved for planning GI for CC adaptation? 2. Green infrastructure definition

GI in this paper is defined as an interconnected network of open and green spaces, both natural and designed, that can provide multiple functions and services such as water and air purification, aesthetics, cultural and socio-economic benefits, recreation, and habitat2), 6), 15), 20). GI exists at various scales (e.g., region, city/town, and site) and functions across jurisdictional boundaries2), 15). Therefore, GI is not limited to urban greening but GI planning should be considered at multiple scales and in various planning contexts such as urban, regional, and rural planning. GI has its precedents in the Parks, Parkways and Boulevard System, and linking conservation areas to counter habitat fragmentation2), 11), 15). GI is to be distinguished from conventional built infrastructure such as roads, sewers, utility lines, hospitals, schools, and prisons. Connectivity is a key planning concept for GI, for many of the benefits of GI can be truly realized by an interconnected network of its constituting elements. 3. Climate change adaptation and mitigation Adaptation and mitigation are two primary ways in which societies can respond to CC. Societies can reduce greenhouse gas emissions (mitigation), thereby reducing the rate and magnitude of change. Also, societies can adapt to its impacts via adaptation options/measures. Adaptation is defined as the adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities9). We need both mitigation and adaptation: we must try our best to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while adapting to already occurring and projected CC impacts. 4. Specifically linking green infrastructure contributions to climate change (1) Observed and projected climate change impacts in Japan A variety of observed and projected CC impacts in Japan are documented in various sectors such as food, water environment and resources, natural ecosystems, coastal areas and disaster prevention, public health, and tourism4). For example, observed and projected CC impacts include: increase in the range of fluctuation in annual precipitation; increase in the frequency of short-term, concentrated extreme rainfalls; sea level rise; increased intensity of typhoons; increase in heat stroke patients; and shifts of many animal and plant species to higher altitudes and more northerly locations4). (2) Roles of green infrastructure in adapting for climate change GI, owing to its multifunctional characteristic, can help mitigate and/or take advantage of these impacts. Examples of CC adaptation measures through GI by sector are summarized in Table 1. A caveat here is that these examples include the effects of individual greening and/or open spaces as well as those that are characteristic to GI, a greenspace network. Unique roles of GI in adapting for CC are attributable to its physical feature: an interconnected network of open and green spaces. For example, GI can provide flood storage, improve rainwater infiltration, reduce run-off, and improve water quality1),
5), 6), 8)

. By

strategically developing a network of GI, these GI functions can be enhanced toward a planning goal of improved stormwater management and regaining natural water cycle. For example, more storm water can be collected and treated on-site by increasing opportunities for infiltration and detention as water moves from one GI to another in a network, thereby reducing run-off with added benefits of cleaning polluted water5), 8). In the US reports show that connected green spaces usually cost less to install and maintain

than conventional methods of dealing with storm water21). Moreover, the reports show that GI can capture, retain, infiltrate, or evapotranspirate 90% of run-off from excessive rainfall21). Furthermore, in the US monitoring studies show that GI practices retain or remove up to 90% of run-off pollution, depending on the pollutant and the particular practice21). Another example of GIs potential contribution for CC adaptation (CCA) is providing functional corridors for plant and animal migration, for shifts of many animal and plant species to more northerly locations are expected. GI can also provide buffer zones against sea level rise and high tides1), 9). GI in this case needs not to be networked but since sea level rise is a major consequence of CC, this role of GI in coastal areas is worth mentioning. Table 1. Examples of GI-based, planned adaptation strategies and benefits by sector
Sector Water Adaptation option/strategy Expanded rainwater harvesting; water storage and conservation techniques; stormwater management (e.g., increase in rainwater infiltration and reduction in run-off); water re-use; protection and conservation of forests at a water source and of wetlands Agriculture Improved land management (e.g., erosion control and soil protection through tree planting) Infrastructure/settlement (including coastal zones) Land acquisition and creation of marshlands/wetlands as buffer against sea level rise and flooding; protection of existing natural barriers; providing alternative evacuation routes Human health Reduction in temperatures; reduction in vulnerability to extreme summers and heat waves; safe water and improved sanitation; reduce air pollution; urban greening to provide shade and mitigate the urban heat island effect Tourism Diversification of tourism attractions and revenues (e.g., ecotourism, farm-stay); protection of forests and wetlands Energy Green roofs; provide shade by green curtain (climbing/hanging vines); energy efficiency; incorporating CC in design standards Biodiversity Protection of endangered ecosystems; providing species migration routes; protection and conservation of a habitat
(Sources: 1), 5), 8), Table 4.1. in 10), and 19)

5. Issues need to be resolved and possible solutions (1) Barriers for green infrastructure implementation for climate change adaptation There are several issues which need to be resolved for a more systematic integration of GI into Japanese land-use planning and for further implementation of GI planning to contribute to CCA. My points below are toward Japans National Spatial Strategies (at the national, prefectural [regional], and city/town scale) and prefectural master land-use plans17). A prefectural land-use plan is intended for place-based land-use regulations according to the designated use of the land such as for urban, agricultural, forest, nature parks, and nature conservation areas17). Some criticize these strategies and

plans to be more of a vision than a strict regulation to guide and control overall land uses. Barriers for GI implementation for CCA include a lack of watershed-based planning (a land-use planning appropriate for the target natural cycle), high uncertainty of the climate projection and CC impacts at a municipal/site scale where land-use planning decisions are made, and a lack of coordination between land-use plans for different sectors (e.g., urban, agricultural lands, forest areas) at the prefectural and city/town scale. To begin with, there are few city/town scale comprehensive land-use plans that can effectively regulate and guide land uses. Second, except for a few large cities such as Yokohama City3), municipal administrative boundaries do not match the scale of natural water cycle; regaining natural water cycle is a major goal of GI planning and helps us adapt to CC. (2) Some ways to advance green infrastructure planning for climate change adaptation While land-use planning decisions are made at the site and local scales, uncertainties about future climatic conditions remain high at this fine scale. How can we deal with the uncertainty under the pressure to act now? The ideas and planning methods of adaptive planning13) and safe-to-fail14) may help. Adaptive planning applies the concept of adaptive management to landscape planning by continuously monitoring before, during, and after landscape plan implementation with feedback loops to learn by doing13). The safe-to-fail concept is similar in principle. Rather than developing a landscape plan that is fail-safe (often requiring years of scientific data accumulation), implementing small-scale projects that can safely fail, but with precautions and the best scientific knowledge of the time and built-in mechanisms to learn from these pilot projects treated as experiments, may be a more reasonable approach to dealing with uncertainties. The adaptive approach is promising for GI because the knowledge to plan and implement these systems is evolving. If experimental applications can be practiced routinely, empirical knowledge can be accumulated by turning uncertainties into opportunities to learn from them. Since GI is an interconnected system that transcends administrative and political boundaries, cross-jurisdictional coordination is necessary to implement its plans1). At the same time, coordination across planning scales (neighborhood, city, regional) is necessary1), 12). Regional planning such as the Tokyo Capital Regional Plan, spanning across several prefectures, and greenspace master plans16) developed by local and prefectural governments would be good scales and policies where the concept of GI can be implemented in Japan. The greenspace master plans facilitate greening and conservation of green spaces (including water bodies but not agricultural lands) in a comprehensive and planned manner16). To further implement GI in Japan, recommended planning bodies are regional-scale entities (not necessarily the prefectural scale bounded by prefectural borders but cross-prefectural coordination is needed), conducting GI at the regional scale. In Japan GI can then be implemented through policies such as the greenspace master plans at the city/town scale. The plans developed by local governments need to be well coordinated with those by prefectural governments. The greenspace master plans16) should be modified to include agricultural lands as part of green spaces and the area focus should expand beyond urban areas so that various green spaces in different sectors (e.g., urban, agricultural lands, forest areas) can be considered together to develop an interconnected network. The planning should be based on a watershed scale if all possible. GI does include individual green features but GI networks can be best used for developing natural drainage systems and migration corridors for plants and animals. Encouraging connection to

existing GI at the site scale as well as city-wide would increase integration and connectivity of GI, improving its effectiveness for CCA. One way to develop a GI network is to integrate GI into existing streets and road networks by adding vegetated swales, street trees, and permeable pavement5), 6), 21). Green streets have added benefits of improving aesthetics, traffic-calming, and pedestrian experience21). In Japan we lack local regulations, accompanied by design specifications to ensure designed GIs hydrological effectiveness, to give clarity to landscape planners and designers on acceptable approaches. What needed are mechanisms such as regulations and incentives to integrate GI practices into a wide range of public and private spaces at both new developments and existing sites5), 21). Multifunctionality of GI conveys co-benefits such as micro climate remediation and aesthetics. Therefore, to seek GIs contribution for CCA, we need to take other GI benefits than CCA into account. More strategically, although we may emphasize visible benefits such as recreation and aesthetics, to facilitate GI planning for CCA, appropriate planning scales, bodies, and policies should be chosen so that plans would generate CCA benefits irrespective of whether or not CCA is the major planning objective. 6. Conclusions Land uses through local and regional planning policies affect local climate18). GI integrated into land uses can therefore have impacts on local climate regulation. In this paper, I have shown observed and projected impacts of CC in Japan and how GI can contribute to mitigating and/or taking advantage of these impacts. GI is shown to be useful for CCA in various sectors (see Table 1). Tzoulas et al.s20) conceptual framework links these various GI benefits to human health and ecosystems. In this paper, I have organized GI benefits through the lens of CCA. GI in Japan can be best implemented at the regional (prefectural and multi-prefectural) scale within greenspace master plans developed by local and prefectural governments. Modifications of the plans are necessary to include agricultural lands and expand the scope beyond urban areas. Better integration of the plans developed by cities and towns into prefectural plans is also necessary. The approaches and concepts of adaptive planning13), safe-to-fail14), and co-benefits can be useful for coordinating planning across jurisdictional boundaries and across planning scales, and dealing with scale mismatches and uncertainties. Also, Gill et al.s7) urban characterization mapping technique as well as greenspace conservation planning frameworks such as Katos12) landscape planning meta-model and Abunnasr and Hamins1) GI transect approach will be useful for advancing GI planning for CCA.

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