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The Green and Blue Research Line results from a merging process of the former Research Centre for Landscape Architecture "Prof. Caldeira Cabral" along with three other R&D Units from Instituto Superior de Agronomia, in form a larger unit, LEAF – Linking Landscape, Environment, Agriculture and Food.


The concept of Green Infrastructures is not new and results from a continuing evolution and research, able to influence both landscape and planning, as well as design trends. Since the 19th century the need of protecting some areas or landscape features in order to keep the ecological balance of landscape is an established idea. From the Olmsted’s Central Park of New York, to the Garden City of Ebenezer Howard, including English green belts around cities, the creation of urban “lungs“ or green corridors, were specially developed in the industrialized countries, all of them as a way of ameliorate quality of life by introducing vegetation in urban areas. The definition of the homeostasis concept by Walter Cannon, in 1927 and the development of a new science – the Ecology – reinforced the need of creating green continuities inside cities. Complementing this urban intervention, big areas were classified as natural reserves, the first of which was the Hot Springs National Park among current N. P. S. parks, created in USA, in 1832, predating Yellowstone National Park by forty years. More recently, the real alert for the need of nature conservation came from Stockholm Conference, in 1972, followed by other global Conferences with the same concern.


After some isolated legislation protecting water (1884 – The Water Public Domain), and oaks (Quercus suber and Quercus rotundifolia) Portugal followed the Western tendency by creating protected areas since 1970 (Law nº 9/70), from which the National Park of Gerês was the first one. After the democratic revolution (1974) a set of legislation was created to protect soil (The National Agricultural Reserve) and physical landscape features, such as coastal areas, water lines, valleys and upper streams, aquifer recharge areas and steep slope areas (The National Ecological Reserve). A Landscape Planning system, at all scales, was created, including the obligation of integrating those legal features into landscape plans.


The entrance of Portugal in EEC, in 1986, opened the doors to European policies: Ramsar Conference entered into force in 1975; three Biosphere Reserves created since 1981 under MAB UNESCO Programme; eight Biogenetic Reserves (CMCE, 1976; STRA-REP, 1998); CORINE biotops (CEC, 1994; STRA-REP, 1999); Birds Directive (STRA-REP, 1998; Council Directive 79/409/EEC of 2 April 1979); Habitat Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992) and Natura 2000 Network (STRA-REP, 1998) the last ones with the creation of Special Protection Areas (SPA) and Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) covering 21% of Portugal’s area, but composed by isolated areas without any connectivity. The EU itself acknowledged that Natura 2000 Network is not enough to guarantee biodiversity in Europe, due to the isolated character of its components. Consequently, a Pan-European Strategy for Biological and Landscape Diversity (IUCN,1995) was created and followed by Pan-European Ecological Network (STRA-REP, 1998a); as a result from the Biological Diversity Convention, Portugal adopted the National Strategy for Biodiversity and Nature Conservation, in 2001; In 2011 EU established the European Strategy for Biodiversity to 2020 (COM (2011) 0244).


During the last four decades the Nature Conservation policy, particularly in Europe, followed a model composed by core areas linked by green corridors, sometimes protected with buffers.


A major leap forward did take place when the Green Infrastructure (GI) concept emerged, from EEA, in 2011 (TR nº18/2011); the Biodiversity Strategy gives emphasis to the ‘Development of a Green Infrastructure Strategy’, that aims to halt the loss of biodiversity and the recovery of degraded ecosystems (EC/CIRCABC, 2012). The GI concept corresponds to the Portuguese Ecological Network (EN), which appeared in the Portuguese legislation by the Decree-Law nº 380/99. The EN aims to integrate all the legal features related with all the environmental factors which were dispersed by different legislation, created in different periods. The main issue to be clarified is that this EN, unlike the European biological concept, aiming at biodiversity protection by itself, includes the necessary areas to keep the functioning of both, physical and biological systems.


The latest European recommendations on Green Infrastructures (COM (2013) 249 final), precisely emphasize the need to integrate these two dimensions of ecosystems functioning (physical and biological) and adds other characteristics such as multifunctionality, adding to biodiversity conservation. Among other functions it stands for: i) Improving ecosystem functioning and promoting ecosystem services ii) Promoting societal wellbeing and health; iii) Supporting the development of a green economy, and sustainable land and water management. This document says that the EC, together with the EIB, undertakes to set up an EU financing facility, by 2014, to support people seeking to develop GI projects.


The EC definition of GI, provides an idea of the concept: “a strategically planned network of natural and semi-natural areas with other environmental features designed and managed to deliver a wide range of ecosystem services. It incorporates green spaces (or blue if aquatic ecosystems are concerned) and other physical features in terrestrial (including coastal) and marine areas. On land, GI is present in rural and urban settings”; and adds that “it helps us to understand the value of the benefits that nature provides to human society and to mobilize investments to sustain and enhance them. It also helps avoid relying on infrastructure that is expensive to build when nature can often provide cheaper, more durable solutions. Many of these create local job opportunities”.


During the last decade CEAP has been delimitating several EN at local, regional and national scales. This EN corresponds entirely to the GI concept, since the used methodology was based on the ecological criteria through a multi-level evaluation, considering two main systems: a) a physical system that relates geology/lithology, soil, water and climate components, and their interactions; b) and a biological system composed by habitat, flora and vegetation, and their interactions with physical components.


The EN was the first step of a methodology used to make landscape/land use plans at local and municipal scales, assigning to EN functions such as agriculture, pastures and forest production, leisure, nature conservation, cultural heritage protection and soft mobility, besides all embedded immaterial functions or physical ones, such as bioclimatic comfort.


This thematic strand aims to develop the previously carried out work by creating specific GI, from planning and design to implementation and management recommendations. For this purpose it counts with a multidisciplinary team, including landscape architects, agronomists, phytosociologists and other earth scientists coming from different LEAF research groups and other institutions.


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