Webinar: Building Green Infrastructure around cities

Building Green Infrastructure: from the protection of single Periurban parks towards the setting-up of a large green territorial system

On the occasion of the EU Green Week 2018 Green Cities for a Greener Future, EUROPARC delivered a webinar on the role of Periurban parks in delivering ecosystem services and improving the livelihoods of citizens in and around cities. 

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What is Green Infrastructure and what ecosystem services does it bring?

In the webinar, Teresa Pastor, EUROPARC expert in Periurban Parks, showed us the Green Infrastructure multi-scalar approach, and the different applications in the urban, peri-urban and regional contexts. Teresa identified the different provisioning, regulating, social and cultural services that green infrastructure bring to citizens, and mentioned the main barriers and challenges to it’s proper implementation in and around cities.

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The EU Green Infrastructure Strategy was launched in 2013 in order to help stop the loss of biodiversity and enable ecosystems to deliver their many services to people and nature. The green infrastructure basically consists of 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 such as water purification, air quality, space for recreation and climate mitigation and adaptation. This network of green (land) and blue (water) spaces can improve environmental conditions and therefore citizens’ health and quality of life.

In the wider landscape, the EU green infrastructure is mainly constituted by the Natura 2000 network and the green corridors connecting these protected sites among them. However, in highly urbanised territories, the deployment of such green infrastructure is not an easy task. Urban sprawling and the presence of a large number of infrastructures difficult connectivity among the few open spaces left.

Case studies

The case study presenters brought us examples from two different geographical realities:

  • a compact city of 250,000 inhabitants – Victoria-Gasteiz
  • a diffuse metropolitan space of 3.2 M inhabitants – Barcelona

Case Study 1

The Green Belt: 25 years working for a multifunctional urban green infrastructure in Vitoria-Gasteiz

By Juan Carlos Escudero, Center for Environmental Studies of Vitoria-Gasteiz (CEA), Spain

The Green Belt is the result of an ambitious project initiated in the early 1990s, the main of which was to restore and recover the outlying areas of Vitoria-Gasteiz, both from the environmental and social viewpoint, in order to create a large, green area for recreational use around the city.

After 25 years of work on the project, major efforts have been made to restore the ecology and landscapes of a number of degraded areas and to prepare these for public use. Juan shared some of the nature-based solutions they have implemented to control flooding and create green corridors in and around the city. Besides, there is also a great focus in community empowerment, with recreation infrastructure within the green belt, regular environmental education activities, community gardens and a citizen-science initiative to monitor biodiversity.

The future challenges of the Green Belt and Green Infrastructure strategies will be presented in the conference “Landscape Sessions”, in the end of May.

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Case Study 2

Barcelona Green Metropolis, ecology, leisure and production

By Jacob Cirera Val and Teresa Gómez-Fabra Gala, Area Metropolitana de Barcelona (AMB)

Jacob and Teresa presented us the macro-planning perspective of the Barcelona Metropolis – a compact and polycentric territory, composed by a mosaic of urban and environmental spaces that co‐evolve and interact with each other – and share the specific case of Collserola Park.

The green infrastructure network has a great environmental and social wealth value, and it is made up of more than 60 different habitats where more than 5,300 species live. AMB shared how they are defining a new metropolitan paradigm where the biodiversity and the maintenance of ecological processes is guaranteed, with a focus on connectivity, critical points analysis and on the “fringes” between green areas. The latter, being their solution to complete the green infrastructure network, maximise ecosystem services and develop the concept of Barcelona as a “Livable City”.

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