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In the last fifty years European cities has been experiencing high dynamics of landscape change. The environmental and social impacts of urban sprawl are widely discussed among researchers. There is a growing pattern of population movement into suburban areas, and a commonly cited reason is the attraction to rural areas because of the associated aesthetics of the landscape. Indeed, for them, naturalness is the most attractive value of this landscape. The periurban nature is predominantly characterized by a rural matrix (90% of suburban areas) (Cavailhès, 2009). Paradoxically, at the same time that urban sprawl is affecting surrounding rural landscapes, suburban landscapes continue to attract new residents. The consequences of urban sprawl and landscape fragmentation have becomes problematic for planners. Urban sprawl has been linked to an array of economic and social costs for communities wanting to meet the quality of life expectations of their citizens. Furthermore, urban sprawl is increasing seen as one crucial contributor to the disappearance and fragmentation of natural areas and to biodiversity losses (Mcdonald et al, 2008). In order to answer to current ecological crisis, European Union has been adopting diverse environmental policies, including biodiversity conservation strategies. The term "green infrastructure" is being adopted by the European urban policy deliverables and becomes the subject of increasing research projects. Green infrastructure is a recent term, but it has roots in planning and conservation efforts that started a hundred and fifty years ago, including greenways, ecological corridors or ecological networks.

In France, since late 1990s, the concept of greenways is increasingly being recognized in planning. It was first used in a broad social and environmental perspective. However, the global recognition of the disastrous results of biodiversity loss has led to increasing efforts to combat the landscape fragmentation. Based on the theories of landscape ecology, the ecological corridor concept emerges as a means to fight against landscape fragmentation. With the adoption of the laws Grenelle 1 and 2 (2009 and 2010), the green infrastructure concept embodies the importance of ecological connectivity. Thus, each metropolitan area has to "take into account" the green infrastructures in its local project planning (SCoT and PLU).

Having creating the "Reserva Ecologica Nacional" (National Ecological Reserve) in 1983, Portugal is at the forefront in the design and application of the concept of ecological network (Andresen et al, 2005). At local level, however, more recent regulations (2005) calls for the delimitation of a municipal ecological network in the master plan based on both ecological and cultural values. The municipal ecological network favors multi-functionality and connectivity of green areas, representing clear progress in terms of a holistic concept of the city’s green structure.



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