The goal of the Adaptive Landscaping solution is to revitalize abandoned urban areas and repurpose them as places that will help mitigate the biodiversity crisis by providing better environments for native flora and fauna to thrive in. However, these spaces would also provide mutual benefits for humans. Increasing biodiversity through methods that reduce harmful stormwater runoff and create new recreational areas for enjoyment would positively impact urban health and wellness, ultimately enhancing the livelihoods of surrounding residents. Terrascope Class of 2024 strongly suggests that citizens and elected leaders work together to revitalize these spaces, for the benefit of their communities.

Benefits to Biodiversity

As detailed in “What Is Biodiversity, and Why Does It Matter?“, the benefits of proper levels of biodiversity on humanity and the world as a whole are astounding, with the value of the ecosystem services that biodiversity provides being estimated in the trillions of US dollars.[1] However, humanity is not meeting these levels, especially in urban environments. In fact, humans are actively reducing biodiversity by contributing to climate change, habitat loss, and the rapid spread of invasive species.[2]

Two cranes with their necks stretched towards the sky. They are next to each other.
Figure 1. Two red-crowned cranes dancing in the snow.[7]

Urban spaces that reincorporate native species and their preferred habitats have been proven to provide the means to increase biodiversity.[3] This was observed in a definite manner in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea, as removal of human influence led to a significant increase in the biodiversity of the area as well as the prevalence of native species.[4] Previously during World War II and the Korean War the red-crowned cranes fared poorly and their numbers dropped so low they they became of the rarest birds in the world, with a total current population of less than 3000. However, since the 1953 cease-fire, the DMZ has become something of a nature reserve for them (as well as for over 100 other near-threatened or endangered species).[5] Due to the abandonment of this previously well populated and farmed area, plants and other wildlife were able to grow unrestrained and left many large areas open and quiet—the ideal resting locations for red-crowned cranes. Each year about 800 of the red-crowned cranes now enjoy spending their winter at the DMZ and the area has been considered a critical refuge for the birds’ future survival as most other crane habitats have become degraded by human settlement and interference.[6]

Though the solution of repurposing abandoned areas is not as extreme as making a demilitarized zone, the example of the red-crowned cranes shows just how drastic the effects of setting aside areas specifically for native species can be on promoting biodiversity. While this process happened on its own at the DMZ, urban settings would require native flora and greenspaces to be reintroduced manually due to the current occupancy of these areas by humans. Then the initial (and continued) increase in occupancy of native species in urban areas will be compounded as populations become established and grow in number, ensuring that they are able to maintain the biodiversity of those locations. In repurposed abandoned areas, entire species could potentially be rescued by planting native flora and allowing them and the ecosystems that form around them to flourish without habitat loss caused by harmful human impact or invasive species. 

Benefits to Water Management and Human Health

Repurposing and renovating urban areas to promote biodiversity works particularly well in conjunction with better water management solutions. The primary goal of reducing stormwater runoff is to remove the toxins and pollutants (such as automotive chemicals, oils, fertilizers, and pesticides) that runoff carries  to prevent them from negatively impacting species populations. According to the US EPA, about 70% of all water pollution comes from rainwater runoff, meaning that this is a significant issue.[8] In addition to the biodiversity benefits of the proposed stormwater management solutions detailed in the Green Infrastructure article—centered around rain gardens, bioswales, and cultivating trees—that Boston (and other cities as well) can implement, all of the projects have the potential to benefit the city’s residents.

A diagram of a building with a rain garden and bioswale. There is a biker on the right side of the diagram on the street.
Figure 2. Similar structure between a bioswale and rain garden. The rain garden is used to catch water closer to the building than the bioswale, as is typical of the two.[9]

In areas of land with enough open space, which is at least ~70 square ft.[10], landscaping with flowers, trees, and shrubs to create greater underground root networks can be an effective way to manage stormwater runoff due to the natural filtration and absorption of water that many plants carry out. Since these areas generally do not require extensive levels of demolition or land clearing, they make implementing green infrastructure cheaper. Propagating both bioswales and rain gardens—small green areas designed to absorb stormwater—with native flora does have a cost, but in exchange for utilizing them, both will contribute to improved air quality, greatly decreased flooding, and cleaner water that replenishes groundwater or that can even be consumed.[11], [12], [13] Rain gardens are capable of removing up to 90% of nutrients and up to 80% of sediments contained in runoff, and typically soak up 30% more water than common lawns do.[14] Bioswales are similarly quite effective according to a 2011 study in affiliation with the USDA published in the Urban Water Journal. It demonstrated how bioswales with trees and engineered soils in a parking lot achieved pollutant removal rates of 95% and reduced the volume of stormwater runoff by 88%.[15] Any green space infrastructure such as these two types that catches, slows, and filters runoff also improves the functioning of current stormwater drainage systems by making less work for them. Adding to these practical benefits, the bolstered natural environment associated with implementing colorful, plant-filled infrastructure adds aesthetic value to any area for citizens to enjoy.

A cross-section of a bioswale depicting stormwater runoff and collection.
Figure 3. Simple diagram of a bioswale.[16]

Quick Overview of Rain Garden and Bioswale Benefits

  • More water filtered into the ground
  • Protection of communities from flooding and drainage issues
  • Protection of bodies of water from pollution
  • Enhanced beauty of the city for citizen enjoyment
  • Less garden maintenance (rain gardens are typically self-sufficient after one year from installation)
  • Valuable habitats for birds and many beneficial insects such as butterflies and other pollinators
  • Reduction of mosquito breeding which reduces the spread of the diseases mosquitos carry
  • Improved water and air quality

Benefits to Residential Life

By transforming abandoned areas into spaces ready for green infrastructure to be implemented, many health benefits are unlocked for residents living nearby, as detailed in the Social Effects of Green Spaces article.

Different urban green spaces will target different mechanisms depending on their categorization as center or periphery and as residential, commercial, industrial, or mixed use. For example, a relatively large area cleared out in a residential center could be a suitable place to make a park incorporating native flora, and will provide space for relaxation and exercise with reduced air pollution, noise, and heat. Meanwhile, in an industrial peripheral area, it could be perhaps more suitable to have a mostly closed natural area with a higher concentration of native flora, helping mostly with biodiversity and floodwater prevention, but it could perhaps have benches in the exterior to provide space for relaxation, and it would also help with reduction of air pollution, noise and heat. 


By implementing green infrastructure projects, communities receive holistic benefits helping human, flora, and fauna populations. Terrascope Class of 2024 urges citizens to contact their community leaders and government (via mail, email, phone calls, and other methods) which can help bring green infrastructure to the places you call home. Voting is an important other way to help, as well as educating others about their benefits. Terrascope Class of 2024 also urges city officials to help facilitate the implementation of green infrastructure in their cities as described in the Green Infrastructure article.


[1] Braat, L., ten Brink, P., Bakkes, J., Bolt, K., Braeuer, I., ten Brink, B., Chiabai, A., Ding, H., Gerdes, H., Jeuken, M., Kettunen, M., Kirchholtes, U., Klok, C., Markandya, A., Nunes, P., van Oorschot, M., Peralta-Bezerra, N., Rayment, M., Travisi, C., & Walpole, M. (2008). The cost of policy inaction, the case of not meeting the 2010 biodiversity target. Alterra Group. 

[2] Threlfall, C. G., Mata, L., Mackie, J. A., Hahs, A. K., Stork, N. E., Williams, N. S., & Livesley, S. J. (2017). Increasing biodiversity in urban green spaces through simple vegetation interventions. Journal of Applied Ecology, 54(6), 1874-1883. doi:10.1111/1365-2664.12876

[3] Ibid.

[4] Harbage, C. (2019, April 20). In Korean DMZ, Wildlife Thrives. Some Conservationists Worry Peace Could Disrupt It.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Wagner, E. (2011, April 01). The DMZ’s Thriving Resident: The Crane. Smithsonian Magazine.

[7] Gore, Michael. (2010). Japanese Cranes, Grus japonensis. Retrieved from

[8] The Groundwater Foundation. (2020). All About Rain Gardens. National Ground Water Association.

[9] Sarasota County and the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program. Similar structure between a bioswale and rain garden. The rain garden is used to catch water closer to the building than the bioswale, as is typical of the two. (2019). Retrieved from

[10] Bannerman, R., & Considine, E. (2003). Rai Gardens-A how-to manual for homeowners. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

[11] Velazquez, A. (2019, September 4). What Are the Hidden Co-Benefits of Green Infrastructure?

[12] Twin Oaks Landscape. (2017, August 1). Twin Oaks Landscape. 5 Benefits of Having a Bioswale in Your Yard.

[13] Rain Garden Network. (2020, March 01). Benefits of Rain Garden for 2020. Rain Garden Network.

[14] The Groundwater Foundation. (2020). All About Rain Gardens. National Ground Water Association.

[15] Caflisch, M., & Callahan, K. (2015, May 26). An Introduction To Bioswales. Home & Garden Information Center.

[16] Leers Weinzapfel Associates. (2019). Bioswale cross-section. Retrieved from

[17] Barton, J., & Rogerson, M. (2017). The importance of greenspace for mental health. BJPsych international, 14(4), 79–81.

[18] Thompson, C. W., Silveirinha de Oliveira, E., Wheeler, B. W., Depledge, M. H., & Annerstedt van den Bosch, M. (2016). Urban green spaces and health (1041549437 796912200 A. I. Egorov, 1041549438 796912200 P. Mudu, 1041549439 796912200 M. Braubach, & 1041549440 796912200 M. Martuzzi, Eds.). World Health Organization.