Green infrastructure


  • Green Infrastructure is primarily known in Portugal under the term “Ecological Network” or “Ecological Structure”. An inter-ministerial coordination mechanism is in charge of promoting the integration of conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity into the various sectoral policies (Council of Ministers Resolution Nº 41/99 of 17 May), including considerations in ecological network planning.
  • The National Ecological Reserve (REN) Act is based on a hierarchical system of territorial management, which operates at the national, regional and municipal level and plans to incorporate green and blue infrastructure elements. As one of the components of the fundamental network for the conservation of nature, the REN supports the integration of the connection between the core areas of nature conservation and biodiversity into the National Classified Areas. In the REN, various green infrastructure elements are planned, including protected areas, sustainable use areas and natural connectivity features. At national level, the REN aims to: 1) protect water and soil resources and ensure ecosystem services, 2) protect groundwater levels, prevent and reduce the effects of maritime flood risk, drought, soil erosion and mass movements on slopes (as climate adaptation measures) and 3) contribute to the connectivity and ecological coherence of natural areas. The REN thereby relates to policies on water (including the EU Water Framework Directive), agriculture and adaptation to climate change (Trinomics et al. 2016). Land areas included under REN regulations must be identified in regional and local plans. Special committees, involving local authorities, central and regional public agencies, manage the application of this regulation and manage conflicts (IEEP et al. 2011).
  • In 2008, new laws were passed on nature conservation and biodiversity which brought some consistency and clarification to previous legislation. The Fundamental Network for Nature Conservation (RFCN in Portuguese) consists of the core areas of nature conservation and biodiversity, an ecological reserve, an agriculture reserve, the Natura 2000 areas, other areas designated at international level and the areas of water in the public domain. The legislation also created the SIPNAT (Natural Heritage Information System) and the Cadastre of Designated Natural Values, as proposed in the Strategy for Nature Conservation and Biodiversity. Another important factor is a new economic and financial regime for nature conservation and biodiversity and the creation of the Fund for Nature Conservation and Biodiversity (EEA, 2015).
  • The National Strategy for Nature Conservation and Biodiversity (2001), active between 2001 and 2010, formulated three objectives: to conserve nature and biological diversity; to promote the sustainable use of natural resources and to contribute to the objectives of international processes (e.g. the Convention on Biological Diversity) (EEA, 2015). Its policies were further to be implemented by The Institute for Nature Conservation and Biodiversity
  • The Natura 2000 Sector Plan, published in 2008, defines the strategy for the territorial management of the areas included in the network, taking into consideration their natural value and long-term maintenance requirements (EEA, 2015).
  • The National Sustainable Development Strategy aimed to prevent the further decline of biodiversity and to ensure the compensation of affected habitats and species. One of the objectives presented in the Strategy was the creation of a network of protected marine areas in order to harmonise economic activity with the protection of estuarine, coastal and oceanic ecosystems (EEA, 2015).
  • In the aftermath of the National Sustainable Development Strategy, which ceased to exist in 2015, the Coalition for Green Growth was formed by the Decree n.º 8098-D/2015, 23 July. It is formed by a wide number of private and public agencies and is divided in 10 working groups: Water, Waste, Agriculture and Forests, Energy, Transport, Industry, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, Cities and Territory, Ocean, and Tourism. Under the Biodiversity and Ecosystem services working group, the following activities take place:
  • The Institute for Nature Conservation and Biodiversity (ICNB, in Portuguese) includes in its mission, among others the sustainable management of wild animal and plant species; designation of land and marine protected areas, management of areas of national interest; integration of the objectives of nature conservation and sustainable use of natural resources into planning and sector policy (EEA, 2015).
  • The Institute for Nature Conservation and Forests, (in Portuguese ICNF), is the responsible governmental body for nature and forest policies, the management of protected areas and the state forested areas in Portugal. With the re-organization of the Instituto da Conservação da Natureza e Biodiversidade (Institute for Nature Conservation and Biodiversity) in 2012, the ICNF was formed, under Decree-Law 135/2012 (29 June 2012). ICNF is a public institute, indirectly administrated by the Portuguese State, endowed with administrative and financial autonomy and its own assets. The ICNF's mission is to propose, monitor and ensure the implementation of policies in the fields of nature conservancy and forestry, to promote the conservation, sustainable use, appreciation, and enjoyment of the natural heritage. In addition, it promotes the sustainable development of forests and resource members, to allow increased competitiveness along the forestry-to-industry chain, but also to defend hunting resources and aquaculture along inland waterways (ICNF,2017).
  • The Municipality of Lisbon established the Lisbon Strategy for 2010-2024, which identified three main objectives for the city: 1) city regeneration – rehabilitation of vacant buildings and degraded city districts and green spaces, to reverse the depopulation process; 2) climate change adaptation – focus on the challenges of climate change and the consequent natural vulnerabilities (such as flooding), as well as on energy efficiency, reducing the number of vehicles in circulation and increasing the area of green spaces; and 3) connectivity of green spaces – implementation of a network of green spaces and corridors for recreational activities and protection, appreciation and promotion of biodiversity and of natural and cultural landscapes (Green Surge, 2015b). According to the municipality, urban green spaces are crucial in order to achieve a more sustainable city and promote the well-being of its citizens.
  • The new Master Development Plan for Lisbon includes the ecological structure as a key factor in the city’s planning strategy. The ecological structure aims to ensure the continuity and complementarity of natural and semi-natural systems in the urban territory, which is strongly constrained by the dense urban fabric, especially in the city centre.
  • Biodiversity in the City of Lisbon, A strategy for 2020 comprises an extensive characterization of Lisbon’s biodiversity and ecological features. It further defines strategic guidelines, objectives and indicators for biodiversity protection, assessment and enhancement in order to meet the challenge of increasing 20 % of Lisbon’s biodiversity by 2020 (Green Surge, 2015b).
    • Redefine, under the new European regulations, the access conditions to national genetic resources;
    • Implement TEEB in Portugal;
    • Implement nature-based solutions against natural disaster risks, such as floods;
    • Implement the Business and Biodiversity Strategy; and
    • Promote agri-industry actions and measures that sustain agricultural system of high nature value.



  • The Azores Islands have implemented a range of activities in the Furnas Lake Hydrographic Basin on Sao Miguel Island. The aim is to protect and restore Furnas Lake, which has suffered for many years from the impacts of intensive agriculture. The “Ecological and Landscape Restoration of Furnas Lake” project began with the closure of most of the farms nearby and consisted of cleaning up and gradually restoring the landscape, with the active involvement of the local stakeholders. The former farmland was turned into natural area, thus increasing the connectivity and quality of the green infrastructure elements. The project also aimed at promoting outdoor events, including woodcarving festivals, “rustic” golf, field study visits, and activities for conservation volunteers and partnerships with local enterprises. Expected benefits are additional income from tourism, increased social cohesion and biodiversity. The project turned the area into a typical example of a multifunctional Green Infrastructure area, providing socio-economic and biodiversity benefits. Local community development was one of the elements of the plan, explicitly linking Green Infrastructure to socio-economic benefits (Trinomics et al., 2016).
  • Ecological Restoration and Conservation of Praia da Vitória Coastal Wetland Green Infrastructure (Azores): The area of the Bay of Praia do Vitória in Portugal was formerly a wide area of wetlands, but human intervention has reduced the wetland habitats to just a few hundred square meters. The project seeks to restore and monitor wetlands in three areas in the bay to prevent the habitat and its species from disappearing completely, secure the ecosystem services provided by the wetlands, and bolster the role of birdwatching and nature tourism in the local economy. The project includes citizen science aspects such as a birdwatcher survey (LIFE CRW, n.d.).
  • Companhia das Lezirias/Mertola: The ‘montado’ is the Portuguese version of the unique Iberian cork oak landscape, known for its high level of biodiversity and its scenic beauty. Cork production is under pressure for various reasons, in particular from decreasing demand for cork stoppers. In Portugal, WWF has been working with its local partner “Association for the Protection of Mértola Heritage” (ADPM) in Mertola to restore about 200 ha of cork oak landscape using local species produced in a tree nursery. Another example is the Companhia das Lezirias, a large estate practicing sustainable agriculture to produce cork, rice, maize, meat and olives. This is combined with recreational and educational services and a high level of biodiversity. The area is thus developed into a multifunctional Green Infrastructure area capable of combining farming with recreation and education, whilst protecting biodiversity in a rural setting. The area, covering nearly 13,000 ha on the hillsides just north of Lisbon, is to a large extent recognised as a Natura 2000 area because of its high nature value (Trinomics et al., 2016).
  • Green corridor Lisbon: As a result of the Lisbon strategy, the size, quality and connectivity of green spaces in Lisbon increased. Elements include bicycle lanes, bicycle-friendly streets, ecological corridors and allotment gardens. The Green corridor networks and informal open spaces such as allotment gardens provide wider accessibility to urban residents, workers and tourists. Other benefits are a positive impact on health by promoting active transport (walking/cycling), environmental impact gains and additional income (and jobs) from an increased number of visitors (Green Surge, 2015b).
  • The development of Quinta da Granja Urban Park in Lisbon took over 12 years to be completed and involved several nongovernmental actors, such as businesses and public transport, universities, associations and neighbourhood commissions, as well as different city governments and parish councils. The cooperation of this variety of stakeholders resulted in a multifunctional park, integrating many different visions and needs, with features such as flower beds, a playground, community gardens, a forested area and also the restoration of the old palace. The park is considered to be one of the best examples and one of the most successful projects based on the coordination between the municipality and nongovernmental actors (Green Surge, 2015b).
  • Green Roofs. Over the last years, step by step, the country has recognized the importance of green roofs and several studies related to the benefits and characteristics of different systems were developed, in parallel to new and emblematic projects, such as the recent Museum of Art and Technology (MAAT) in Lisbon and the future Campanhã bus terminal, in Porto.  In August 2016, the Portuguese Association for Green Roofs (ANCV), a member of the European Federation for Green Roofs Association (EFB), launched a pioneer project in the country, in cooperation with the Porto City Council (CMPorto), entitled “Porto Fifth Facade Project (Portuguese acronym – PQAP)”. The objective of this project is to define which models the CMPorto should follow in order to include Green Infrastructures (GI), in particular Green Roofs, into the urban planning, environmental and climate change strategy of Porto, the second largest city in Portugal. The PQAP represents an important step in the history of GR in Portugal, since it’s the first time that a council officialises its intention to include GRs in the plans of the city, which may transform Porto into the first Portuguese city to have a formal plan for GR. The PQAP has several collaborations with research groups from different Portuguese universities, as well as with councils of foreign cities, and community associations.
  • Quinta do Pisão – a 380 hectare redevelopment of abandoned agricultural land into a working farm and large public park offering walking and cycling paths - is part of the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, which belongs to the Portuguese Natura 2000 network. Additionally, the location is well-suited for various events around sustainable tourism. The agency ‘Cascais Ambiente’ is responsible for the management of all green infrastructure in the Cascais Municipality. They initiated the Quinta do Pisão transformation project and are responsible for activities organised in the park. Since its establishment in 2007, the project has already managed to increase local biodiversity (e.g. the number and variety of plant and animals species living in the park has increased) and attract both locals and tourists for recreation in the area (IEEP, 2016).



3.1  Nature

The EU Natura 2000 network is at the core of the EU's Green Infrastructure. Portugal hosts 99 habitat types and 325 species covered by the Habitats Directive. The country also hosts populations of 80 bird species listed in Annex I of the Birds Directive. By early 2016, 20.6% of the national land area of Portugal was covered by Natura 2000 (EU average 18.1%), with Birds Directive Special Protection Areas (SPAs) covering 10% (EU average 12.3%) and Habitats Directive Sites of Community Importance (SCIs) covering 17 % (EU average 13.8%) (European Commission, 2017).

3.2  Spatial and urban planning

Considering ecological systems in spatial and urban planning has been an accepted principle since the introduction of the REN (Decreto – Lei nº321/83 in 1983, Decreto – Lei nº 93/90 in 1990, latest update from 2008: Decreto – Lei nº 166/2008) (IEEP et al., 2011). The Portuguese land use planning policy is based on a hierarchical system of territorial management, which operates at three spatial levels: national, regional, and municipal. On the city level, Master Development Plans guide land use planning and includes the Municipal Ecological Structure as a key instrument for city planning, aiming at better coordination between green planning and ‘grey’ planning, improving connectivity, resilience and functioning of urban nature (often including climate adaptation and social cohesion) (Green Surge, 2015a).

3.3  Marine and coastal policy

The Portuguese Strategy for Integrated Coastal Zone Management was created by Decree n19 212/2005 from 5 September and aimed to think off and help establish encompassing policies to protect the coastal zone. Its main objectives are to: 1) protect and enhance natural heritage resources and cultural landscape by ensuring a coherent network of marine protected areas, recovery of the coastal zone, integrated management of mineral resources, 2) prevent and manage natural hazards and environmental impact and impacts on social and economic development, 3) promote sustainable development and enhancement of specific resources of the coastal zone, and 4) deepen the scientific understanding of the systems, ecosystems and coastal landscapes: creation of a knowledge platform for the coastal zone (IEEP et al., 2011).

The Action Plan for the Costal Protection and Valorisation 2012-2015 follows the Action Plan for the Costal Protection and Valorisation 2007-2013 and the Portuguese Strategy for Integrated Coastal Zone Management. One of its specific action points is the protection and requalification of the natural areas in the continental coastal zone  (PAPVL 2012-2015).

3.4  Forestry

The Institute for Nature Conservation and Forests, (in Portuguese ICNF), is the responsible governmental body for the nature and forest policies, the management of Protected Areas and the state forested areas of Portugal. The IFN6 National Forest Inventory made use of soil use/occupation for the reference years of 1995, 2005 and 2010, including a detailed description of agricultural use.



The Permanent Forest Fund (FFP) was created by Decree n.º 63/2004, 22 March, its purpose is to finance the sustainable management of forests. It is divided into five main areas of investment and financing, namely:

I-                    Awareness and information;

II-                  Forest defence against fires;

III-                Promotion of investment, management and forest spatial planning;

IV-               Financing ecological, social and cultural services of the forest;

V-                 Financing dedicated research and knowledge.

POSEUR- Operational Programme for Sustainability and Resource efficiency. Under POSEUR 40 million Euro are being allocated to finance projects dealing with Biodiversity and Ecosystems.



5.1  Best practice/points of excellence

5.2  Challenges/gaps/needs

In the framework of a previous study on GI (Trinomics et al., 2016), national experts identified the following needs/challenges with regards to GI implementation in the country:

  • Better integration of policies directed at economic sectors and policies for the environment.

5.3  Opportunities

In the framework of a previous study on GI (Trinomics et al., 2016), national experts identified the following areas that could enhance GI implementation in the country:

  • Promotional efforts emphasising socio-economic growth benefits of Green Infrastructure, in particular in the rural context.
  • Search for private funding and cooperation with NGOs to compensate for decline in national funding.
  • Streamlining environmental regulations, while strengthening enforcement (OECD recommendation).
  • Knowledge dissemination of benefits of Green Instructure to managers of national parks.

5.4  Benefits



  • Portugal had already completed in 2009 a national ecosystem assessment following the conceptual framework of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. Portugal is also conducting a national TEEB (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity) Assessment between 2011 and 2016 (TEEB, n.d.).
  • The University of Lisbon founded a “Green and Blue Infrastructure Research Line” within the research unit LEAF – Linking Landscape, Environment, Agriculture and Food. The goal of the thematic strand is to promote the implementation of the GI concept especially in Portugal, as well as identify promising opportunities for developing GI with a focus on the Lisbon Metropolitan Area. The research line works both on conceptual development of GI concepts as well as applied approaches to GI. Included among its major projects is “National Ecological Network – a proposal of delimitation and regulation”, funded by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT), which aims to delimit and set out the National Ecological Network (NEN) implementing Portuguese legislation on the ecological network and planning (LEAF, n.d.).
  • Portugal was involved in the pilot study on urban ecosystems and their services by the working group on MAES, the “Urban Pilot”, which was a collaboration between the European Commission, the European Environment Agency, the Portuguese Directorate-General for Territory, the Dutch Presidency of the EU and 10 cities in Europe. As a follow up, a two-year project (2017-2018) has been developed under the title Enhancing Resilience Of Urban Ecosystems through Green Infrastructure: EnRoute. Lisbon, Oeiras and Cascais will be part of the “city labs”, where the URBAN-MAES framework will be implemented using local data and involving in the process the local stakeholders and focusing on specific issues (Maes et al. 2017).



To achieve active citizenship and to promote participation by non-governmental actors, the Lisbon municipality has developed a series of information platforms and participative instruments such as the participatory budget: The Quinta da Granja Urban Park is an example of an initiative resulting from participatory processes.



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EEA (2015). Nature protection and biodiversity – National Responses (Portugal). Accessed 6 April 2017:

European Commission (2017). The EU Environmental Implementation Review Country report – Portugal.

European Federation Green roofs and Walls. Accessed 9 May 2017.

GIZC- Portuguese Strategy for Integrated Coastal Zone Management (2017). Accessed 9 May 2017 .

Green Surge (2015a). Almada, Portugal. Case Study City Portrait; part of a Green Surge study on urban green infrastructure planning and governance in 20 European cities.

Green Surge (2015b). Lisbon, Portugal. Case Study City Portrait; part of a Green Surge study on urban green infrastructure planning and governance in 20 European cities.

ICNF. The Institute for Nature Conservation and Forests . Accessed 9 May 2017  (

IEEP (2016). The Health and Social Benefits of Nature and Biodiversity Protection – Annex 1: 20 Case Studies.

IEEP, Ecologic Institute, GHK, Syzygy, TAU Consultora Ambiental, University of Antwerp and VITO (2011). ‘List of Identified Green Infrastructure Initiatives by Member State’, in Green Infrastructure implementation and efficiency, Final Report to the European Commission under Service Contract ENV.B.2/SER/2010/0059, Annex I.I

LEAF (n.d.). Green and Blue Infrastructures Research Line. Accessed 6 April 2017:

LIFE CWR (n.d.). Infrastructura verda humida da Praia da Vitoria. Accessed 13 October 2016:

Maes, J., Zulian, G. and Thijssen, M. (2017). Inception report: EnROUTE. Final draft version (10 February 2017). Unpublished manuscript.

PAPVL 2012-2015- Action Plan for the Costal Protection and Valorisation 2012-2015. Accessed 9 MAY 2017

POSEUR- Operational Programme for Sustainability and Resource efficiency (2017). Accessed 9 MAY 2017.

TEEB (n.d.). TEEB Portugal. Accessed 13 October 2016:

Trinomics, ALTERRA, Arcadis, Risk & Policy Analysis, STELLA Consulting, and Regional Environmental Centre (2016). 'Green Infrastructure in Portugal', in Supporting the Implementation of Green Infrastructure, Final Report to the European Commission under Service Contract.