Re-envisioning the relationship between infrastructure and biodiversity

Our team is leading a series of academic papers to mark the path ahead for sustainable infrastructure management. We imagine a biodiverse future where ecosystems and infrastructure enhance one another to serve people and nature. This work will lay out a plan for scientists, practitioners, decision-makers, and society to strengthen civil infrastructure with ecosystem services and support wildlife at the same time.

raging river

Improving stream restoration practice

Stream restoration and engineering are important for ensuring that waterways provide services for people and ecosystems. We’re evaluating the impacts of stream restorations to figure out what makes them successful (or not). We will use the results to provide guidance s to maximize the benefits of restoration projects for nature and society. Photo by Anton Atanasov on

aerial photography of dam

Informing dam-removal decisions

Dams are one of the biggest threats to aquatic biodiversity, and aging dam infrastructure can pose serious safety risks. In some cases, removing dams is safer and more beneficial than repairing them. Strategic dam removal is an innovative and important infrastructure option that can help achieve environmental, social, and economic benefits.  We are studying the effects of dams on flood risk, greenhouse gas emissions, nutrient cycling, and ecosystems to guide dam removal projects to where they will do the most good.  Photo by Tom Fisk on

aerial photography of a boat on a waterway in the middle of forest

Guiding flow management

Managing rivers for people and nature means deciding the levels of river flows over time. Our team is studying the effects of different flow patterns on aquatic ecosystems and important native fish species to illustrate the relationship between water management decisions and nature conservation goals. This subproject will guide infrastructure management that balances environmental and social water needs. Photo by Kelly on

Demonstrating design for biodiverse coastal infrastructure

Our team is developing approaches for visualizing and designing biodiversity-friendly shorelines, including libraries of biodiversity-friendly designs and guidance manuals for practitioners. Engineers rely on standardized design methods for designing infrastructure to protect our coasts, and we’re working to provide resources that help include ecosystems and habitats in that process. Ultimately, this will help create valuable synergies where ecosystems reinforce infrastructure goals. Photo by Oliver Sjöström on

aerial view of a river near grassland

Crafting tools for strategic levee adjustment and floodplain restoration

In many cases engineers have determined that the most effective way to reduce flood risks is not to build higher levees, but to strategically design levee systems that allow rivers to flood in controlled ways. These adjustments use floodplains as a form of natural infrastructure, and provide habitat for aquatic and terrestrial wildlife. We are creating spatial decision-support tools to help prioritize levee re-alignments to maximize benefits to people and nature. Photo by Tom Fisk on

Evaluating the biodiversity performance of natural infrastructure

Designing natural infrastructure that supports biodiversity goals requires a means of comparing biodiversity benefits to other project benefits and costs. We are developing a framework to assess the potential biodiversity benefits of infrastructure projects in ways that are comparable with other objectives to help project managers evaluate tradeoffs. Photo by Andrew Nagy