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Conceptual framework

Own elaboration based on Bennet, 1998

In recent years, and mainly based on concepts from the discipline of landscape ecology, the important role played by the whole system of open areas – what is called the ecological matrix – has been highlighted, along with the subsequent need to address the planning and management of the natural systems as a whole. As a result, the strategy for natural areas should not only depend on the protection of certain areas of interest or the establishment of networks of protected areas, rather should include the whole territory as a functional unit subject to planning and management, in order to succeed in the conservation challenges posed. The value of natural areas should therefore emerge from a comprehensive approach in which every open area plays its role and they must be planned and managed with those criteria.

In the Mediterranean context, this approach is even more necessary, as the landscape is dominated by a mosaic of land uses leading to an extraordinarily rich, diverse and complex area. All open areas form a system of vital importance in the maintenance of ecological and territorial processes. Consequently, the preservation of natural elements and processes can hardly be based on the perspective of natural parks, or even networks of protected areas, as most natural dynamics strongly depend on the whole matrix, which also contains many of the key natural values of interest.

The protection of the Mediterranean mosaic, both in terms of its natural and cultural values and the overall functionality of the system, cannot be limited to preserving the open areas from the urbanization processes in the medium term. It must also provide them with an ecological, social and economic project as the only way to ensure their long-term persistence and sense.

In this context, spatial planning based on the existence of a functional system of open areas should necessarily incorporate the assessment of the features and attributes of these areas from a multidisciplinary perspective, which incorporates its natural, economic and social values.

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