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PhD Research Projects


Landscape planning and rural development agents. A Landscape Plan for Baixo Guadiana

Date: 2013-2017

PhD Fellow: Luísa Franco <>

PhD supervisor: Prof. Manuela Raposo Magalhães - LEAF/ISA/Lisbon University 

PhD co-supervisor: Prof. Manuel Belo Moreira - ISA/ULisbon University


Rural marginal areas in south of Portugal face several main constraints to its development, such as: desertification, which resulted from the agriculture intensification in the twentieth century; and rural abandonment that occurred mainly in the sixties and was aggravated with the CAP reform in 1992. The solutions for these rural areas can only be achieved through a balance between production and conservation and the development of complementary economic activities that could contribute to employment creation, such as tourism and nature conservation activities. Thereby the main purpose of this research focus on the discussion of possible alternatives for the future of rural marginal areas in Portugal, which could contribute to the sustainability of Landscape and that may also respond to the social-economic requirements of rural communities. The practical achievements are expected to be a landscape plan for Baixo Guadiana that simultaneously integrates the study of rural landscape evolution since 19th century, the main local and global drivers, the ecological land suitability for human activities and the rural communities and rural development agents, as recommended by the Landscape European Convention and the national rural development program.

Ecological optimization to land-use and landscape management

Date: 2014-2018

PhD Fellow: Leonor Themudo Barata <>

PhD supervisor: Prof. Tiago Domingos - MARETEC/IST/Lisbon University

PhD co-supervisors: Prof. Manuela Raposo Magalhães - LEAF/ISA/Lisbon University; Cristina Marta-Pedroso - MARETEC/IST/Lisbon University

Our contribution, as landscape architects, should concern development and territorial strategies that guarantee the sustainability of natural resources, without neglecting local population values and expectations…

In this way, this research aims at contributing to the development of advanced spatial planning methodologies that better inform the decision-making process, concerning environmental risk associated with land-use and landscape management practices.

Through Scenario Analysis and Ecosystem Services (ES) Assessment, and using Quinta da França (Covilhã) as a case study, this thesis focuses on the need to develop targeted response measures and to better understand trade-offs between planning options.

From the outcomes of this this study, valuable contributions and recommendations are expected to emerge concerning the regulatory regimes of planning tools such as PDM, REN, RAN, DPH and RFCN.

The National Ecological Network and a Land Morphology Model - An Application to Portugal.

Date: 2010-2017

PhD Fellow: Natália Cunha <>

PhD supervisor: Prof. Manuela Raposo Magalhães - CEAP/ISA/Lisbon University 

PhD co-supervisors: Prof. Tiago Domingos - IST/ULisbon; Prof. Christian Küpfer - University of Nürtingen


The Ecological Network (EN) concept is embedded in several strategies at European and global levels. The emphasis of the latest EU 2011 Biodiversity Strategy for 2020 is on the 'Development of a Green Infrastructure Strategy' that aims to halt the loss of biodiversity and to recover degraded ecosystems (EC/CIRCABC, 2012). In Portugal, the EN concept was included in its legal system in 1999. Despite all EU policies, according to which EN must be implemented in all landscape plans at all spatial scales, the Portuguese legislation does not consider it to be a unique entity, nor does it define EN criteria and composition in landscape plans at several scales. At the national level, the National Program for Land Planning Policy does not include EN delimitation, and the regional and municipal levels have contradictory delimitations of the EN.

This work plan will present a methodology to delimitate ENs based on ecological criteria through a multi-level evaluation, considering two main systems: a) physical, including geology/lithology, soil, water and climate components, and their interactions, b) and biological, comprising habitat and vegetation, and their interactions with physical components. The main goal is to map the National Ecological Network (NEN) for continental Portugal. Part of it is included in the research project FCT - PTDC / AUR - URB / 102578/2008 - National Ecological Network - proposal of delimitation and regulation. This study will focus on two hierarchical levels defined for the NEN and on case studies comparing regional (Lisbon Metropolitan Area) and municipal (Lisbon) EN. A critical evaluation of EN in the existing Portuguese landscape plans is proposed and key guidelines for the implementation of NEN are presented.

This proposal also focuses in a compensatory management methodology based on the ecological balance of landscape with the allocation of ecological values of the territory.

National Ecological Reserve (REN) - National Level

Date: 2010-2016

PhD Fellow: Selma Pena <>

PhD supervisor: Prof. Manuela Raposo Magalhães - CEAP/ISA/Lisbon University 

PhD co-supervisor: Prof. Manuela Abreu - ISA/Lisbon University


The Nacional Ecological Reserve (REN) is a legal framework of planning in Portugal, established in 1983, in a context of rapid urban growth. This framework aims to safeguard a biophysical structure of the territory, protecting the fundamental systems of landscape.

In the nowadays, the same spatial planning problems persist and the protection of the REN remain indispensable. However, there is a gap in the theoretical criteria of delimitation of the REN components. The existing delimitation held by the authorities, as part of the first generation of municipal plans, is heterogeneous and often inconsistent. Recently the government stablished orientations to REN delimitation that will be also evaluated and criticized.

The main goal of the research is to discuss, consolidate and regulate criteria for delimitation of the components from National Ecological Reserve, defining a national and a regional strategy, through a Geographic Information System. It is intended to deepen this legal instrument which is strategic to Landscape Planning.

Assessing Public Health Benefits through Green Infrastructure Strategies in Medium-sized Cities in Spain. Case study: La Coruña.

Date: 2012-2016

PhD Fellow: Pedro Calaza-Martinez 

PhD supervisor: Prof. Luís Ribeiro - ISA/Lisbon University


The last UNFPA statistical data show up that over the 50% of the world´s population has lived in urban areas since 2010. Although it´s true that cities offer multiple opportunities (job, knowledge, culture,…) also it is true that they have a negative aspect in everything related with the fast pace of life, the lack of leisure areas, the social cohesion and the public health. This research project addresses the significance of Green infrastructure (GI), as a strong planning strategy that can contribute to contemporary cities’ public health. The current research focus on the case study of La Coruña city (northeast of Spain). The research includes the analysis of existing GI on a municipal and provincial scale and how its evolution and implementation can positively influence the public health of urban community and hence increasing the city’s competitively. The results aim to be applied to other cities in Spain, connecting it with the benefits that are generated to public health in a double aspect: prevention and economical saving.

O pensamento ecossistémico no projeto da paisagem: uma reflexão sobre a integração de conceitos ecológicos na prática projetual da arquitetura paisagista contemporânea

Date: 2009-2016

PhD Fellow: Ana Paula Gomes da Silva <>

PhD supervisor: Prof. Manuela Raposo Magalhães - ISA/Lisbon University

PhD Co-supervisor: André Botequilha de Carvalho Leitão - UAlgarve

This PhD thesis researches the use of ecological concepts in contemporary landscape design. It focuses on north-American regional context but establishes
articulations with both European and Portuguese landscape architecture. It fulfills two goals: identify ecological concepts and proposals of its incorporation in design; and to inquire antecedents related with the creative use of science in landscape design history.

Landscape Quality and fitodiversity: contribution for landscape planning and managenment of coastal areas with high natural value.

Date: 2009-2012

PhD Fellow: Pedro Arsénio <>

PhD supervisor: Prof. Luís Ribeiro - ISA/Lisbon University


The project focuses on the planning and landscape management methodologies, particularly in the context of high natural value coastal areas. It studied concepts, applies landscape assessment methodologies and proposes innovative ways to formalize planning and management strategies aimed at reconciling human activities (such tourism, recreation and agriculture) with the conservation and sustainable management of natural resources. Methodologies of assessing public visual preferences and ecosystems natural value were applied to the cased study area – Southwest Alentejo Coast, Portugal. Planning and management strategies were further developed as means of insuring the preservation of landscape qualities and cultural identity within a context of economic development.

The Landscape Character Concept and their Application in Protected Areas Management: Azores case study.

Date: 2008-2013

PhD Fellow: Cláudia Ávila Gomes 

PhD supervisor: Prof. Luís Ribeiro - ISA/Lisbon University


The concept of landscape character is useful for the understanding of the landscape unique identity and singularity, taking into account the perceptions on the part of technicians and the public, in line with the recommendations of the European Landscape Convention. Applying this concept to the study of landscapes can be achieved through the combination of parametric, landscape architectural and phenomenological methodologies. The combination is performed within this research, through a holistic synthesis of the above, and has resulted in the identification of a set of key points and properties relating to the landscape character that allow its evaluation. The methodology was applied to the case study – Azores archipelago, Faial Island, Monte da Guia Protected Area –  in order to validate the usefulness of the concept and deepen the knowledge about their protected areas and about a particular one, which is the case study on the scale of the place. The identified issues are related with the need to reconcile human uses with the preservation of native ecosystems of high natural value, where public participation is essential. The landscape character concept can become operational, is important for a comprehensive understanding of the landscape and can be applied to the management of protected areas.

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