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In Portugal, one of the legal frameworks which directly protect the fundamental systems of landscape is the National Ecological Reserve (REN). This instrument was created by the landscape architect Ribeiro Telles in 1983 and at that time its inclusion in the legislative system was considered a pioneering concept in the field of environmental protection. Alongside, it was created the National Agricultural Reserve (1982) that aims agricultural land protection which together with the Natura 2000, other classified areas, and National Ecological Reserve assembles the Fundamental Network of Nature Conservation (2008).

The National Ecological Reserve safeguards fundamental natural cycles and also a wide range of interfaces with high ecological value and sensitivity (beaches, marshes, dunes, cliffs, banks and flood threatened area by floods and sea). This legal framework includes the landscape systems which are critical to ecological stability assurance. Therefore, it constitutes a basic and diversified biophysical structure that guarantees the ecosystems protection which is essential to human activities.

At the municipal land use plan the Ecological Reserve delimitation is mandatory and forbids urban construction on those areas. It has been understood by local administration and private promoters as a blockage for local development by preventing built up areas. Until now, it has been pointed some difficulties regarding the clarity of the delimitation criteria that led to discontinuities between adjacent municipalities and created some obstacles to its implementation. However, this legal framework has allowed landscape protection and prevented some serious environmental problems.

Currently, National Ecological Reserve is undergoing through profound regulation changes that are leading to its dissolution. This fact has become inconsistent with the current European guidelines which strengthen the necessity of biodiversity protection - European biodiversity strategy (2011) - and nature conservation through the implementation of green infrastructures. These infrastructures are a support network of biodiversity and ecosystems that integrate the National Ecological Reserve.

Since the beginning of the 90’s, the Research Centre for Landscape Architecture “Prof. Caldeira Cabral” (CEAP / TUL) has been developing methodologies to improve the delineation of National Ecological Reserve criteria as part of the Ecological Network. This research is based on a positive vision of landscape as a resource of life-support services enlarging the current restrictive view of land use to a multifunctional approach.



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