Assessment of ecological capacity for urban planning and improving resilience in the European framework

An approach based on the Spanish case




sustainable development, Ecosystem Services, environmental impact, regional planning, resilience


The basic idea underlying this research is that urban planning is one of the main causes of environmental degradation. Despite its relevance in impacting ecosystems, the current methodological assessments across Europe still fail to include spatial planning as a relevant factor. This paper aims to formulate an innovative methodology for the evaluation of ecosystems for protecting land at risk of degradation. This methodology is exemplified by the case of Spanish spatial planning applied in the Community of Madrid, being also capable to be employed in other European State Members after a cartographic adaptation. The proposed methodology specifically implements a European approach to the scale of regional and local spatial planning based on the “Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystems and their Services” (MAES) project. Among the main results, four outcomes stand out. The first is the novelty to provide a methodology capable of dealing with natural values at regional and municipal levels based on a spatial-planning-based scale (1:20,000). The second result regards the incorporation of new attributes tied to existing ecosystems during the drafting of spatial plans, thus improving the quality of the information to make better decisions in terms of environmental protection. The third result is the more accurate environment assessment due to the inclusion of a new element of direct pressure on ecosystems, while the fourth outcome is that the proposed methodology detects the impacts of the drivers of change in the Community of Madrid. Although the cartographic information is defined at the regional scale, the results obtained can be linked to the municipal planning scale. The proposed methodology can be a much more useful tool for regional spatial planning for three main reasons: it works at the same scale as regional planning (1:20,000), it incorporates the environmental information necessary for the correct identification of natural values and impacts at the municipal level, and it works with geographic information systems. These reasons allow an easier and quicker incorporation of ecosystems in spatial planning tools by simultaneously interpreting and comparing different land protection issues such as ecosystem loss and ecosystem services.


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Author Biographies

Rafael Córdoba Hernández, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid

Rafael Córdoba Hernández is a Associate Professor in Urban and Territorial Planning at the Department of Urban and Territorial Planning (Universidad Politécnica de Madrid). He is a member of GIAU+S-UPM (Research Group in Architecture, Urbanism and Sustainability) and also Planners for Climate Action of the UN-HABITAT Climate Change Planning Unit (P4AC). He prepares regulatory documents for territorial planning, general planning and development planning. His current research focuses on territorial resilience and ecosystem vulnerability in relation to urban planning and global warming.  His teaching and research activities have led him to publish several articles and participate in many national and international conferences. He has published scientific articles highlighting the role of urban planning as a fundamental element in the creation of a resilient territorial structure, in accordance with the provisions of Law 7/2021 on Climate Change and Energy Transition and its direct impact on municipalities. At the same time, his professional activity has been concerned with the practical application of the principles of sustainable development in the drafting of municipal urban and territorial plans. This has also led him to participate as a legal expert in various contentious-administrative proceedings in defense and conservation of the environment and territory on behalf of social organizations, companies, individuals and public administrations.  

Federico Camerin, Universidad de Valladolid

Federico Camerin (1989), city planner, obtained in 2014 an Inter-University-Programme Graduate Degree in “City and Environment: planning and policies”, which included a European postgraduate degree in “Planning and Policies for Cities, Environment and Landscape” at Università Iuav di Venezia (Italy). He was awarded in 2014-15 and 2016-17 with two “Urban Planning” fellow research grants at the Dept. of Design and Planning in Complex Environments of the Università Iuav di Venezia. In June 2020, he has been awarded with the degree of Doctor and Philosophiae doctor in the frame of European Programme “UrbanHist” (2017-2020) between the Instituto Universitario de Urbanística of the University UVA of Valladolid (Spain) and the Fakultät Architektur und Urbanistik of the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar (Germany). He was a post-doc fellow in urban planning at the Department of Architecture and Arts at Università Iuav di Venezia (2021) and he is currently post-doc researcher “Margarita Salas” for the Universidad UVA de Valladolid and Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM) (2022-24). 


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How to Cite

Córdoba Hernández R, Camerin F. Assessment of ecological capacity for urban planning and improving resilience in the European framework: An approach based on the Spanish case. CIG [Internet]. 2023 Jul. 4 [cited 2024 Apr. 18];49(2):119-42. Available from: