Green Infrastructure: Key to Restoring Biodiversity in European Grasslands


A recent study published in the Journal of Applied Ecology has demonstrated that green infrastructure (GI) is essential for restoring pollination networks and improving plant performance in semi-natural dry grasslands in Europe. The research, led by Dr. Anna Traveset from the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies (IMEDEA, CSIC-UIB), was conducted in Belgium, Germany, and Sweden.

Agricultural intensification, deforestation, and land abandonment are the primary factors behind the loss of biodiversity in European semi-natural grasslands. To reverse this trend, it is crucial to re-establish interactions between plants and animals, such as pollination.


What is Green Infrastructure?

Green infrastructure refers to a planned network of natural and semi-natural spaces that provide ecological, economic, and social benefits. These spaces include ecological corridors, parks, sustainable agricultural areas, and urban green spaces that connect fragmented habitats, facilitate species movement, and provide essential ecosystem services such as pollination, climate regulation, and water purification. In grassland restoration, GI is crucial for increasing connectivity, supporting pollinators, and maintaining ecosystem functionality, thus contributing to biodiversity conservation and climate resilience.

The study evaluated differences in species composition and plant-pollinator interaction patterns between ancient and restored grasslands, considering landscape connectivity as a key factor. Twenty-four grasslands (12 ancient and 12 restored) were analyzed to determine:

  • The diversity and abundance of pollinators.
  • The structure of plant-pollinator interaction networks.
  • The effect of functional landscape connectivity (green infrastructure) on these variables.
  • The consequences of these interactions on the reproduction of two model plants: Lotus corniculatus and Salvia pratensis.


Photo: Sustainable agricultural areas are key to the green infraestrcture.

The study's findings highlight the importance of improving ecosystem functions while avoiding biotic homogenization. Restoration programs should focus on increasing landscape connectivity, which influences plant communities, pollinator populations, and their interaction patterns. To prevent generalist species from dominating restored grasslands, it is recommended to reinforce the presence of specialist species through introductions and increase connectivity with source populations.

This study provides evidence of the need for ecological restoration that promotes both ecosystem functionality and species recovery. Integrating green infrastructure into European landscapes is crucial for effectively restoring plant-pollinator interactions and improving the reproductive performance of plants in semi-natural dry grasslands.


Reference: Traveset, A., Lara-Romero, C., Santamaría, S., Escribano-Ávila, G., Bullock, J. M., Honnay, O., Hooftman, D. A. P., Kimberley, A., Krickl, P., Plue, J., et al. (2024). Effect of green infrastructure on restoration of pollination networks and plant performance in semi-natural dry grasslands across Europe. Journal of Applied Ecology.