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Tuesday, May 24, 2022
HomeLatest NewsHow urban development is perverting Spain's protected areas

How urban development is perverting Spain’s protected areas

Protected areas have become a double-edged sword. They fulfill their function of limiting building in the natural environment and conserving biodiversity, but they have also become an important attraction for urban planning. Although construction in these areas is sporadic due to the restrictions of Spanish law, the rings surrounding these areas are under increasing pressure from housing developments.

So much so that over the past 30 years, inhabited urban land — new buildings — has doubled at the boundaries separating protected spaces from urbanized spaces, according to a publication conducted by researchers from Autonomous University of Madrid, University of the Grenoble Alps and University of Jaen. If in 1990 644 km² were built in these rings, then in 2018 the expansion of cities in front of the Spanish reserves reached 1082 km², which is reflected in the results published in the journal Global Environmental Change.

“Protected areas are an important tool for protecting biodiversity,” says Alberto González-Garcia, study co-author, Público. In Spain, a little over 17% of the territory is protected by environmental legislation, but the effectiveness of these mechanisms is limited. “Once an area is declared protected, the environment is re-evaluated,” he says. Outskirts of greenery are perverted, attracting new settlements.

A study in Spanish geography identifies three protected areas according to their impact on urbanization processes: mountain parks, nearby urban parks and community parks of Madrid. The latter cannot be compared with any other environment in Spain, since it has features typical of the proximity to the metropolis that areas such as the Sierra de Guadarrama have.

In general, the increased urban load around protected areas is due to “proximity to cities and highways,” says González-Garcia. In other words, the connections contribute to the development of cities, but there is also an important social element related to the purchasing power of these communities, which are growing along with the green spaces of Spain.

“They are closely associated with the upper middle class. We see that municipalities and urban areas located near protected areas tend to increase in gross domestic product (GDP),” explains the researcher. “This is what we saw in Madrid, in places like Manzanares Real or sotowhere this urban model is associated with high economic development and a specific profile of residents who have their usual residence or their second holiday residence in these areas.”

The impacts of urban development go beyond the pressure on protected ecosystems. As a result of expansion, economic changes are taking place, and in some areas, the economy is being outsourced, and traditional activities such as agriculture or animal husbandry are being crowded out. “There is a pull effect, especially in more urban natural areas, as they are presented within a more desirable lifestyle,” says González-Garcia.


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