Maximizing Benefits by Selecting the Best Scale for Natural Infrastructure Implementation

A collaboration with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineering With Nature Initiative, as part of the Network for Engineering With Nature.


Natural infrastructure is thought to provide “win-win” outcomes for both ecosystems and
communities by providing habitat for key species, recreation opportunities to community
members, and protection from severe weather events, among other benefits. However,
it is difficult to quantify these benefits from engineering and ecological performance
perspectives at larger scales — such as those for an entire watershed — because most
measures examine benefits at the individual project scale.

Objective and Approach

We aim to develop a framework that infrastructure managers can use to understand
how the outcomes of individual natural infrastructure projects relate to their
broader, landscape-scale contexts and inform decisions around the scale and
placement of natural and nature-based features.

We will use field, laboratory, and modeling approaches to evaluate natural infrastructure
examples such as large wood additions at multiple spatial and temporal scales.

Based on our findings, we will embed small-scale, project-specific details into a larger
river- and watershed-scale tool that infrastructure managers can use to assess ecological
outcomes and determine the best scale for implementing natural infrastructure within a

Lead Researcher

Nate Nibbelink, University of Georgia,