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Greater Baltimore Wilderness Region Green Infrastructure Identification and Ranking

Green infrastructure is our natural life support system—an interconnected network of forests, wetlands, waterways, floodplains, and other natural areas; parks, greenways and other conservation lands; forests, ranches and farms; and other open spaces that support native species, maintain natural ecological processes, sustain air and water resources and contribute to people’s health and quality of life.

Focusing on green infrastructure promotes strategic conservation and restoration that is proactive, holistic, systematic, well integrated and applied at multiple scales (e.g., across landscapes, watersheds, regions, and jurisdictions). Green infrastructure can help coordinate land and water conservation efforts and integrate them into a cohesive strategy for reaching long-range goals.

Green infrastructure exists at multiple scales. At broad scales (e.g. statewide or river basin), it includes large blocks of forest, wetlands, stream networks, and other natural systems. At local scales (e.g., county, city, or stream catchment), smaller patches may be included. Site-scale green infrastructure may focus on natural or semi-natural solutions to reduce stormwater runoff or heat.

What is climate resiliency?

For purposes of our project, we use the term climate resiliency to refer to the ability to resist or mitigate the negative impacts of the changing climate in Maryland’s coastal zone including watersheds that empty into the Chesapeake Bay. The negative effects primarily examined include rising sea levels, increased precipitation and corresponding increased stream flows and greater storm water runoff, and coastal storm damage from wave erosion and storm surge.

In looking to what services could be provided by green infrastructure – that is, natural features such as forests and wetlands as well bioengineered approaches, such as bioswales, raingardens, and green streets – we focused on how green infrastructure could buffer or mitigate physical damage to communities, built infrastructure such as roads and hospitals, and ecosystem features themselves. These mitigating services are examples of climate resiliency.

The term resiliency also is used to refer to social and economic factors that can determine how well specific populations or neighborhoods can weather and recover from significant climate-caused impacts. While some social and economic factors were included in our green infrastructure analysis, these aspects were not the primary focus of the project.

Green Infrastructure Strategies to Increase Regional Resilience

The Greater Baltimore Wilderness Coalition identified five green infrastructure strategies to maintain and increase regional resilience to storms and other impacts

Protect Natural Resources

Preserve, restore or enhance valuable and vulnerable land and water resources providing hazard mitigation and other co-benefits, including floodplains, wetlands, forest, stream systems, steep slopes, hydric and highly erodible soils, and important habitat areas.

Regional scale

Local scale

Enhance and Restore Tree Canopy

Maintain, enhance, and restore tree canopy in urban and suburban communities to reduce stormwater runoff, ameliorate the urban heat island effect, and improve air quality.

Site scale

Implement Multi-Benefit Green Stormwater Infrastructure

Retrofit developed areas to reduce impervious surface and incorporate best management practices such as bioretention areas, green streets, and green roofs in order to reduce vulnerability to flooding and associated pollution.

Site scale

Protect Critical Infrastructure

Use green infrastructure to buffer critical infrastructure from extreme weather impacts, including key transportation corridors, power production and transmission facilities, hospitals, and emergency management centers, water supply reservoirs, and waste water treatment facilities.

Site scale

Defend the Coast

Preserve, restore or enhance natural habitat and introduce nature-based practices (e.g., living shorelines) to buffer coastal areas from impacts of coastal flooding, storm surge, and sea level rise.

Site scale

Site scale

Site scale