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Cities are often threatened by a loss of environmental quality due the rapid increase of urbanized areas that fragment natural landscapes. This is particularly true at the cities’ fringe where uncontrolled urbanization is often characterized by discontinuous patterns and consequent fragmentation of farmlands. These phenomena are particularly relevant in Mediterranean cities, where the high degree of land-use transitions, a consequence of urban growth with poor environmental regulations produce urban landscapes characterized by a lack of green areas and high levels of ecological fragmentation (EEA, 2006).

Greenways are one of the most powerful and widespread tools used at urban, metropolitan and regional scales. Their aim is to counteract ecological fragmentation and to integrate urban development, nature conservation and public health promotion (Ahern, 1995; Fabos & Ryan, 2006). They facilitate linkages between rural and urban spaces along the rural-urban interface through linear systems (Walmsley, 2006). As networks of linear elements they are planned, designed and managed for multiple purposes, including the provision of ecosystem services such as purification of air and water, mitigation of floods, climate regulation, generation and renewal of soil fertility, accessibility to open spaces and intellectual stimulation. Urban contexts present particular challenges for greenways development due to the complex arrangement of urban landscape features. The large number and diversity of land-cover types often produce high degrees of fragmentation of open spaces and heterogeneity of their roles and functions. For this reason a number of different types of patches of Non Urbanized Areas (NUAs) are present in urban contexts: this calls for a characterization of these spaces in order to highlight their physical features and their ecological and social functions. Particularly, they could represent a big opportunity for planning policies oriented to support new forms of urban agriculture (La Greca et al., 2011a).

When formulating planning approaches to greenways in urban contexts, new forms of agriculture have been the focus of very few studies and applications but they can significantly contribute to cities’ sustainability (Zasada, 2011). Proposing an agricultural greenway that integrates different NUAs into a network of farmlands and other green spaces (parks, playgrounds and so on) could significantly improve the overall accessibility of these areas, redefining the rural-urban interface and enhancing the provision of urban ecosystem services.



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