The thorny path toward greening: Unintended consequences, trade-offs, and constraints in green and blue infrastructure planning, implementation, and management

Jakub Kronenberg, Erik Andersson, David N. Barton, Sara T. Borgström, Johannes Langemeyer, T. Tove Björklund, Dagmar Haase, Christopher Kennedy, Karolina Koprowska, Edyta Łaszkiewicz, Timon McPhearson, Erik E. Stange, Manuel Wolff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Urban green and blue space interventions may bring about unintended consequences, involving trade-offs between the different land uses, and indeed, between the needs of different urban inhabitants, land users, and owners. Such trade-offs include choices between green/blue and non-green/blue projects, between broader land sparing vs. land sharing patterns, between satisfying the needs of the different inhabitants, but also between different ways of arranging the green and blue spaces. We analyze investment and planning initiatives in six case-study cities related to green and blue infrastructure (GBI) through the lens of a predefined set of questions-an analytical framework based on the assumption that the flows of benefits from GBI to urban inhabitants and other stakeholders are mediated by three filters: infrastructures, institutions, and perceptions. The paper builds on the authors’ own knowledge and experience with the analyzed case-study cities and beyond, a literature overview, a review of the relevant city documents, and interviews with key informants. The case studies indicate examples of initiatives that were intended to make GBI benefits available and accessible to urban inhabitants, in recognition of GBI as spaces with diverse functionality. Some case studies provide examples of trade-offs in trying to plan and design a green space for multiple private and public interests in densely built-up areas. The unintended consequences most typically resulted from the underappreciation of the complexity of social-ecological systems and-more specifically-the complexity of the involved infrastructures, institutions, and perceptions. The most important challenges addressed in the paper include trade-offs between the different ways of satisfying the residents’ different needs related to the benefits from ecosystem services, ensuring proper recognition of the inhabitants’ needs and perceptions, ecogentrification, caveats related to the formalization of informal spaces, and the need to consider temporal dynamics and cross-scale approaches that compromise different goals at different geographical scales.

Original languageEnglish
Article number36
JournalEcology and Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Environmental justice
  • Trade-offs
  • Unexpected outcomes
  • Urban ecosystem services
  • Urban green space


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