nrg4SD & UN Habitat - Expert Meeting on Landscape Fragmentation and the City -Region approach

nrg4SD and UN Habitat co-organised an Expert Group Meeting on Landscape Fragmentation and the City-Region approach on 9-11 May 2012 in Barcelona, Spain.

Setting the scene

Urban sprawl and landscape fragmentation are two of the most intractable development challenges facing contemporary planners, with perverse consequences on biodiversity and integrated territorial planning. Science agrees that even the city-regions aware of this alarming trend have been unable to decelerate landscape fragmentation.

As the only region in the world to have undertaken a comprehensive study of its prevalence, even Europe has not succeeded in taking any coordinated action to confront it. Consequently the loss of biodiversity is accelerating. Entire ecosystems are degraded and species are less able to access resources and exchange genetic material. Many of the services that ecosystems provide for cities are also in decline.

The scale of ecosystems is in many ways also the scale of urban influence. Working successfully at this scale requires working beyond regulated municipal boundaries (city limits) as well as cutting across multiple administrative and jurisdictional boundaries (between cities). City-region planning remains a promising response. The solutions must be physical, spatial ones for innovative configuration at the city-region scale. Science has advanced our understanding of the drivers behind and methods for measuring fragmentation. But specific guidance on how to translate this knowledge into concrete planning actions remains elusive.

Expert meeting on landscape connectivity and city - region planning

In response, nrg4SD and the UN Habitat Settlements Programme co-organised an Expert Group Meeting from 9 - 11 May in Barcelona, Spain. Partners used this meeting to bring together a range of stakeholders from policy makers to practitioners to researchers. Its objectives were to highlight the importance of configuration for the performance of urban and environmental systems, to expand spatial planning beyond the scale of the city and its jurisdictional boundaries and to broaden the conception of fragmentation to a consideration of ecosystem functionality.

Mr Richard Forman of Harvard University, the world’s most foremost scholar on landscape ecology delivered the keynote speech on urban regional ecology and planning. Mr Jochen Jager, Fragmentation Expert from Concordia University gave an overview of the problem of fragmentation and outlined methodologies for measuring fragmentation and sprawl. Urban wetlands and ecosystems expert Mr Robert McInnes from the UK, reviewed his recent work for UN-Habitat on the functionality of ecosystems and related initiatives that cities have taken.  Mr Matthew Cullinan, an urban designer from Cape Town, outlined the process of developing environmental management frameworks.  Key institutions including RECEP-ENELC, Barcelona Regional, UNU-IAS, CBD and ICLEI presented their own related work.

The meeting was inaugurated by the Minister of Territory and Sustainability of the Government of Catalonia (nrg4SD Co-chair North) followed by regional perspectives on landscape fragmentation and the current state of practice of ecological planning by ten regions from around the world: Catalonia, municipality of Can Tho, Fatick, Flanders, Manila, Mbale, Nghe An, Philippines, Quintana Roo, Rhône-Alpes, Santa Catarina, and Sao Paulo.


The meeting identified drivers of fragmentation, catalogued regional needs for addressing these drivers and brainstormed actions – for collaborative follow-up by the meeting participants – for fulfilling these needs. These actions assessed for feasibility over short and medium-term timeframes, with the resulting commitment to undertake four: (i) produce an awareness-raising guide for decision makers (including regional governmental representatives), (ii) develop a checklist for mainstreaming ecosystem services considerations into the actions of key stakeholders (such as regional planners), (iii) create a regional planning functionality on an existing urban E-platform and (iv) promote advisory services to integrate landscape planning and ecosystem services into actual city-region plans.  It is hoped that by demonstrating multi-level, trans-disciplinary and cross-jurisdictional action these pilot activities will contribute to (re)connecting our urban regions and promoting integrated territories.

Updated documents



This Expert Group Meeting took place at Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, Calle Sant Antoni Maria Claret 167, 08025 Barcelona - Map

Programme and practical information

Preparatory discussion papers

Communications and outreach


Wednesday 9 May

Expert Presentations

Regional Perspectives moderated by Rafael Tuts, Coordinator, Urban Planning and Design Branch, UN-Habitat


Latin America



Thursday 10 May

Institutional Methodologies

Practitioners’ Tools


Friday 11 May

Regional Action Planning

For more information and to access the audio and video for the meeting, please contact the nrg4SD Secretariat

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