Biodiversity Protection and Social Justice in the Barcelona Natural Park

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This intervention has been translated into a brief governance scenario. Take a look at Negotiating Green Space Development: Balancing Long-Term Sustainability and Short-Term Social Needs

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a) Basic characteristics and ambitions of the intervention

1. What is the name and the urban context (e.g. city/district) of the intervention? Please also indicate the geographical scale of the intervention (e.g. neighborhood, district, small/medium/ capital city, metropolitan area ...). [Example: “Brixton Energy in Brixton, London (neighborhood in capital city)”]

Peri-urban Natural Park of Collserola (Serra de Collserola Natural Park) in Barcelona (Naturvation_08).

2. What sector(s) (alias domain/ policy field) is the intervention primarily implemented in ? [e.g. housing, mobility, energy, water, health, local economy, biodiversity, CC adaptation, etc.]

Green Space for biodiversity protection, ecosystem services provision, and Nature-Based Solution (NBS).

3. What is the intervention (i.e. situated experiment) aiming to achieve in terms of sustainability and justice? [If possible, please copy from a project website and give a reference]

The intervention aims to protect Barcelona's fragile Peri-Urban ecosystems for both social and ecological functions while preserving biodiversity and providing ecosystem services to nearby residents (Naturvation_08). Since the enactment of the special plan for planning and protection of the natural environment in 1987, the park has become an area for recreation and connection to nature, promotion of the cultural and environmental values of the local population, and protection of an area of great ecological value (Naturvation_09). Barcelona is a highly populated and dense city with relatively a few available green spaces. Collserola Park enhances the quality of life in the city, in particular through the forests' contribution to air pollution removal and urban cooling (Naturvation_08).

4. What is the interventions’ timeframe?

The park’s new management activities started in 2010 and are still ongoing. The intervention was studied in the context of the NATURVATION project during the period 2016 - 2020 (Naturvation_08).

5. By what governance mode is the intervention characterized primarily? (see Appendix 1: Three modes of governance)

Government-led (Naturvation_08).

6. Why do you consider it worthwhile to study and share experiences made in the context of this governance intervention for sustainable and just cities?[1]

This intervention meets the WP5 criteria for a case selection/study criteria by highlighting the governance challenges associated with the addressing the need for green spaces for both recreational activities and biodiversity protection. In particular, maintaining a balance between different stakeholders' visions for the park and ensuring local citizens participate in the park’s planning and management (given the geographical scale of the intervention and the traditionally hierarchical governance mode of the actors) are noteworthy challenges.

7. In which project deliverable(s) or other documents can information be found on this situated (i.e. place-specific) governance intervention?

Naturvation Deliverables

  • Urban Nature Atlas: A database of nature-based solutions across 100 European cities, 2018 (Naturvation_07)
  • Taking action for urban nature - citizens engagement handbook, 2019 (Naturvation_01)
  • International comparison of nature-based solutions project report, 2019 (Naturvation_06)

b) Additional basic characteristics, links to earlier UrbanA work

8. EU Project-context of the intervention:

  • a. Has the intervention been developed or studied in the context of an (EU-funded?) project? (please name the project, its duration and include a link to the project website here).

The intervention was studied by NATURVATION with funding by the European Union’s HORIZON 2020 Programme (Naturvation_08).

  • b. According to WP3’s database of approaches, which approach(es) does the intervention best fit under? Where applicable, please indicate if the intervention is found in a project that has been explicitly mentioned in the database.

The intervention best fits under the “Nature-Based Solutions” approach. It has been studied under the NATURVATION project, which is mentioned as an example in the database of approaches.

  • c. Have some project deliverables been coded in the context of UrbanA’s WP4?

Yes, the four deliverables mentioned above (Q. 7).

9. Problematization and priority:

  • a. How exactly has inequality and exclusion been problematized (by whom) in the context of this intervention?

Collserola Park is the largest green space in the metropolitan area of Barcelona, an area that is under significant demographic pressure (Naturvation_09). Rapid urbanization was seen as a potential threat to fragile peri-urban ecosystems and consequently to biodiversity protection, ecosystem services, and access to nature. Additionally, uneven representation of different visions - biodiversity protection vs. recreation - between different groups reflect wider tensions and inequalities that local citizens had problematized in the park's existing management (Naturvation_06:82).

  • b. Has the achievement of justice explicitly been named as a major motivation behind the intervention?

Striking a balance between dual goals of biodiversity protection and fulfilling local citizens' demand for greater access to green spaces and recreational activities is the major motivation behind the intervention (Naturvation_08). The Special Plan for the Protection of the Natural Environment and Landscape of Collserola Mountain (PepNat) was devised to address Collserola’s new status as a NATURA 2000 site, responding to the challenge of preserving biodiversity while providing much needed recreational ecosystem services, especially in relation to the high density of population in surrounding areas (Naturvation_06:19).

Drivers of injustices Based on WP4 coding Based on own assessment
1. Exclusive access to the benefits of sustainability infrastructure
2. Material and livelihood inequalities
3. Racialized or ethnically exclusionary urbanization Yes Yes
4. Uneven and exclusionary urban intensification and regeneration
5. Uneven environmental health and pollution patterns
6. Unfit institutional structures
7. Limited citizen participation in urban planning
8. Lack of effective knowledge brokerage and stewardship opportunities
9. Unquestioned Neoliberal growth and austerity urbanism Yes Yes
10. Weak(ened) civil society Yes

c) Actor constellations

10. Who initiated the intervention?

The intervention was initiated and is now jointly managed by the Park Consortium, composed of members from the Catalan government (Generalitat de Catalunya), the Barcelona Provincial Council (Diputació de Barcelona), the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona (AMB), and the adjacent nine municipalities (within the territory of the Park): El Papiol, Molins de Rei, Sant Feliu de Llobregat, Sant Just Desvern, Esplugues de Llobregat, Barcelona, ​​Montcada i Reixac, Cerdanyola Del Vallès and Sant Cugat del Vallè (Naturvation_08).

11. Who are the envisioned benefiters of the intervention? (both at a local level and higher, if applicable)

Park visitors and local citizens. Park visitors could be outsiders e.g. tourists or scientists. Local citizens not only benefit from visits but also from the ecosystem services that the park provides, such as moderating atmospheric temperature.

12. Who else is (going to be) involved in the intervention, and what was/is their main role?

Actor types[2] Yes Actor name and role[3]
Academic organizations Yes as part of consultative and scientific committees, see Q15
Religious organizations Yes as part of consultative and scientific committees, see Q15
Civil society organizations
Hybrid/ 3rd sector organizations
NGOs Yes as part of consultative and scientific committees, see Q15
Social movements
Political parties
Social entreprises
For profit entreprises
Local/regional government Yes The park consortium (see Q10) is responsible for the management and development of the Special Plan for the Ordering and Protection of the Natural Environment of the Parc de Collserola (Naturvation_08).
Regional organizations
National government
Supranational government
International networks
Other initiatives

13. Which particular interactions among various stakeholders (stakeholder configurations) were crucial in enabling the intervention to emerge successfully? This could include direct or indirect impacts on interventions.

The interactions within the initiating consortium, i.e. between the Catalan government (Generalitat de Catalunya), the Barcelona Provincial Council (Diputació de Barcelona), the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona, and the nine adjacent municipalities (Naturvation_06:19).

14. To what extent, in what form and at what stages have citizens participated in the shaping of the intervention?

Citizens and visitors to the park are encouraged to leave suggestions for the park’s improvement at the information centre (Naturvation_07:59). Citizens are also asked for their feedback on the Park’s management plan (Naturvation_01:11). However, according to the NATURVATION project documentation, the Collserola Park's management plans are often only shared with the public at an advanced stage of development and in formats that are not easy to understand. According to NATURVATION’s informants, citizens in Barcelona were invited to comment on initial park management drafts where, despite the inclusive small group format, the discussion topics were pre-decided by the organizers, which obstructed effective participation (Naturvation_06:24).

15. How are responsibilities and/or decision-making power distributed among actors?

In terms of inclusive decision-making, the park's governance system is comparatively advanced and informed (Interview, 08.06.2020). The Serra de Collserola Natural Park is governed by the following bodies:

  • General assembly

The General Assembly is the Consortium’s supreme deliberation and decision-making body. It is made up of 10 members from Barcelona Diputació, 10 members from Barcelona Metropolitan Area, four members from the Government of Catalonia (Generalitat), one member from each city or town council affiliated to the Consortium and one member from an invited entity.

  • Executive committee

The Executive Committee is an operational body established to monitor and develop mechanisms for the implementation of decisions taken in the General Assembly. The Executive Committee comprises of twenty-one members, of which at least three are representatives of Barcelona Diputació, three Barcelona Metropolitan Area, and three from the Government of Catalonia.

  • Consultative committee

The Consultative Committee is the advisory body that brings together the social, academic, cultural, professional, and economic sectors, alongside private non-profit organizations that pursue goals of general interest that coincide with those of the Consortium.

  • Scientific advisory committee

The aim of the Scientific Advisory Committee is to provide advice based on scientific knowledge to the governing and management bodies of the Natural Park in regards to particular action items. Its creation is pursuant to Article 13 of Decree 146/2010, of a declaration of the Natural Park of the Serra de Collserola (Naturvation_10).

16. Exclusion:

  • a. Which stakeholders or social groups were excluded (at which stages)?

The Naturvation project reported the tokenized participation of local citizens in the Parks management and planning (Naturvation_06:24).

  • b. Is there any indication why this may have happened? With what outcomes? Has anything been done to overcome such exclusions?

The analysis conducted by NATURVATION project lists following constraints to citizens’ participation::

  • Park managers fear that the citizens' engagement (or inclusion) in the park’s planning could weaken their vision for longterm sustainability and biodiversity protection (Interview).
  • Citizens' engagement in park management often depends on the interest and goodwill of individuals coordinating the plan.
  • Lack of trust sometimes makes municipalities reluctant to genuinely engage with civil groups.
  • A perceived sense among the citizens that the proposed plan would proceed regardless of consultation responses has also impeded public participation in the management of the Park.
  • The contextual distance between civil groups and municipalities and any pre-existing contestations has influenced the participation process.
  • Low turn-out rate is a factor of privilege: only those who could afford to volunteer or participate affected who could be present in NBS consultations and management planning (Naturvation_06:24).

d) Enabling conditions for the implementation of the intervention

17. What circumstances or events are reported to have triggered the intervention? (In what ways?)

The EU directive 92/43 / EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora provided context for the creation of Natrua 2000: a European ecological network of special areas for conservation. Under this directive, the Agreement of the Government of the Generalitat de Catalunya of September 5, 2006 approved the proposal detailing places of community importance. This included the Serra de Collserola, which corresponds to the totality of the "Space included in the Plan of Areas of Natural Interest". This territory has been managed since 1987 within the framework of a special protection plan. Its environmental protection dimension was then consolidated with the declaration of the Natural Park in 2010 (Naturvation_08).

18. Are particular substantive (multi-level) governmental policies considered to be highly influential in the genesis and shaping of the intervention? (If easily possible, please specify the policy, the policy field and the governance level mainly addressed, and characterize it along Appendix 2: Policy typology)

As already stated above (Q. 17), the EU Policy NATURA 2000 joins national implementation in local territories with multiple levels of regional, local, and municipal government agencies.

19. What constitutional responsibilities and rules does the intervention build upon? In other words, what rights, powers, and/or responsibilities, does the country's constitution (in a broad sense) award municipalities, states, utilities, NGOs, citizens etc. and how does this impact the intervention?

On basis of the constitutional responsibilities (as prescribed by Spain’s constitution from 1978), regional and local government bodies have been involved in the implementation of the (European) NATURA 2000 policy within the context of the park's management: Part VIII Territorial Organization of State:

  • Section 140: Autonomy of municipalities
  • Section 141: … a provincial government comprised of municipalities is designed to carry out the activities of the state.
  • Section 142: local treasuries must have sufficient funds available in order to perform the tasks assigned by the law.

Chapter 3: Principles Governing Economic and Social Policy

  • Section 45: Everyone has the right to enjoy an environment suitable for the development of the person, as well as the duty to preserve it.
  • Section 45: The public authorities shall watch over a rational use of all natural resources with a view to protecting and improving the quality of life and preserving and restoring the environment…

20. According to project material/and or interviews, in what ways have particularities of (local) political culture influenced the character and success of the intervention? (i.e. trust in political institutions, citizens’ will to interact with policymakers and vice versa, traditions of cooperation, etc.)

According to NATURVATION project documentation (Naturvation_06), constant coordination and collaboration between municipalities and regional bodies were very important to the success of the intervention - for instance, in overcoming differences in interests.

21. What are financial arrangements that support the intervention?

The Diputació de Barcelona and the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona provide the annual budget to support the program of actions (Naturvation_08).

22. Have any of the above conditions changed within the intervention’s timeframe, which have (significantly) influenced it in a positive or negative way?

The Naturvation project has documented that the park consortium adopted new and improved methods for engaging citizens in planning and managing the park (Naturvation_01:59).

Note: Certain contexts, which provide opportunities to learn from other relevant experiences, may also be a supportive framework condition. Please see section h, questions 26 + 30 on learning context.

e) Obstacles to successful intervention implementation

23. What obstacles to implementing the intervention (both generally, and in this particular context) have been identified, relating to:

  • a. Regulatory framework

The NATURVATION project has reported some controversies during the development of the Collserola Management Plan (PepNat) specifically focused on whether or not an urban park - highly accessible and with considerable grey infrastructure - should be subject to a stricter (biodiversity) protection regime. Similarly, an interviewee for the study highlighted that there were conflicts between visions for the park from major park management entities i.e. the regional government, park authority, and the AMB. The regional government and the park authority favored more biodiversity protection for long-term sustainability, whereas the AMB favored fulfilling the demand for recreation and thus shorter-term social justice goals (given the small number of green spaces in the highly-dense and populated city of Barcelona). The interviewee further flagged tensions around the central authority of the park. Collserola was first under the direct control of the regional government, but due to some political power influences, the park’s authority shifted from the regional to local government. Finally, the NATURVATION project has also documented that the Collserola Management Plan (2019) left some issues unaddressed, such as the possibility of gentrification in the Park’s surrounding areas and illegal housing within the park's premises (Naturvation_06:26).

  • b. Legitimacy

The Naturvation project has documented the obscured socio-economic impacts of the Park’s management plans. The plans had gained popularity by promising multiple benefits, yet remained imprecise and neglected difficulties or discrepancies with implementing such measures (Naturvation_06:26).

  • c. Public awareness

The proposal for adaptive management in Collserola’s PepNat introduced new concepts and ideas about park management that were too technical to understand by all stakeholders, giving rise to questions and contestation about their implementation and impacts (Naturvation_06:24).

  • d. Finances

According to an interviewee, the park is the best financially-equipped park in the region.

  • e. Others (please name)

We found no references to other types of obstacles

f) (Institutional) Work done to overcome obstacles

24. What has been done by each central actor group to overcome which particular obstacles in the way of successfully implementing the intervention? (this may include institutional Work - maintaining, disrupting, and creating new rules, applying to both formal laws/regulations and informal norms and expectations.)

Name of obstacle What work was/is being done to overcome this obstacle and by what actor groups?
1.Contestations around different visions for the park: biodiversity protection vs. recreation Stakeholder negotiations and park planning to strike a balance between both visions.

On the ground, the park managers are trying to reduce the number of trails, adopt a regulative approach, and restrict zones for bikers (additional signage) (WP5 Interview on 08.06.202).

2. Questionable social benefits The Park Consortium designed more recreational activities for the Park’s visitors (Naturvation_09).
3.Poor public participation and lack of awareness The regional and park authorities initiated a variety of public participation methods – incorporating discussions that were similar to round tables in order to debate and discuss its planning drafts with citizens.

The initiative benefited from numerous public meetings and workshops held on municipal premises adjacent to the park. However, it was found difficult to provide sufficient information for citizens to develop an informed perspective (Naturvation_01:11).


g) Reported outcomes

25. What are reported outcomes of the intervention? This may include economic outcomes, political outcomes, ability to reach sustainability and justice targets, etc.

The park currently hosts several plant and animal species; a large number of visitors are attracted every year (almost 30.000 in 2015); and programs several environmental education activities. The intervention is ongoing, below are expected impacts:

  • Green space, habitats and biodiversity (SDG 15)
  • Regeneration, land-use and urban development
  • Inclusive and effective governance (SDG 16)
  • Health and well-being (SDG 3) (Naturvation_08).

h) Learning involved in establishing the intervention

Please fill in any information on social learning that has occured in this intervention (conceptualized here as “Learning context, content, and process” in line with the FOODLINKS project)[4]. Where possible, please differentiate your response into learning done by specific actor groups.

Learning context

(i.e. the configuration and social environment enabling the learning process)

26. According to the TRANSIT project’s four mechanisms for empowerment – i. funding; ii. legitimacy; iii. knowledge sharing, learning, and peer support; or iv. visibility and identity – please briefly describe the following, and indicate where the intervention has been developed or supported as part of which formal collaborations, networks or projects:

  • a. any previous experiences in the same urban context (e.g. city…) that the intervention is (reportedly) building upon? This could include any relevant experiences in the same or another sector.

Not reported.

  • b. any inter-city partnerships, or transfers from experiences elsewhere that have (reportedly) been important in the emergence of this intervention?

Not reported.

Learning content

27. Has any acquired knowledge (e.g. technical knowledge, awareness of local political procedures etc.) been reported as particularly helpful to this intervention?

  • a. from previous experiences in the same urban context

The Park has adopted a lot of guidance from the region. The park authority was involved in various European networks for learning and knowledge exchange with other parks. In general, its management/governance system composed of various bodies has greater capacity for learning and exchange ( (Interview, 08.06.20).

  • b. from inter-city partnerships or transfers from experiences elsewhere

Answered above under question number 27.

  • c. from other knowledge gathering/research

The parks’ governance body has a scientific advisory committee that makes decisions for the park on the basis of scientific research (Interview, 08.06.20).

Learning process

28. In what ways has the intervention been adapted to specific circumstances of the targeted urban context based on the learned content reported in question 27?

Not reported.

29. Based on your answers to question 24, how has overcoming obstacles (reportedly) contributed to the learning process?

According to the NATURVATION project, the park consortium has adopted new ways of citizens engagement in the park’s management planning. However, the issue is not yet fully addressed (6).

30. Please list any tools that enabled the learning process (e.g. various Knowledge Brokerage Activities from pg. 24 of FOODLINK’s Deliverable 7.1 - linked in footnote)[5] and the actors involved in using them.

It can be assumed that the numerous citizen engagement meetings and workshops organized in municipal premises by the park consortium (as recorded by Naturvation) added to the learning process (Naturvation_01).

i) Learning involved in establishing interventions elsewhere (transferability)

31. Suggestions regarding transferability.

  • a. Have any suggestions been made about a replicability, scaleability or transferability of the intervention? [e.g. in the documentation of the intervention in a project or the press? Links would be perfect]

The intervention could be replicated in other places in Spain or Catalonia. Interestingly, according to an interviewee, southern countries are not often exemplary in terms of sustainability governance and are rather replicating interventions from northern European countries i.e. Scandinavia, Germany, the Netherlands etc. This may change, as Italy especially has shown some interest in Catalonian sustainability interventions.

  • b. Transferability to what kind of contexts has been suggested?

Other cities in Spain.

  • c. Who has made the claims?

Johannes Langemeyer, Established Researcher, ICTA - UAB as a passive observer of the Collserola National Park on June 10, 2020, has made the claim of potential transferability of the intervention.

  • d. What limits to transferability to broader contexts have been discussed?

Not reported

32. In what forms has the learning process, including stories of overcoming obstacles, been recorded for, and/or made accessible to city makers also from elsewhere?[6]

Some learnings from the intervention have been recorded by the NATURVATION project and are hence accessible via the respective website.

33. Have any signs of collaboration, support, or inspiration already been reported between actors involved in this intervention and others that follow its example? (e.g. in “follower cities”?)

Not reported.

j) Structural learning

34. Has the intervention influenced higher-level governance arrangements such that sustainability and justice are considered (together) in a more durable, structural way? In other words, are there any observations about more structural, long-term changes as a result of the intervention?

  • For example: new programs run by local councils, new modes of citizen participation, new mediating bodies
  • Is there other evidence that the project has contributed to enhancing sustainable and just governance in cities in a general sense?


k) Reflections on important governance concepts

35. What other aspects of governance, that were not covered above, are important to highlight, too?

This is a purely government-led intervention that benefitted from trans-organisational cooperation, but was challenged by a lack of effective citizens’ participation.

WP5 Interviewee (Johannes Langemeyer) on June 08, 2020: The biggest takeaway from this intervention in terms of governance arrangements is how bringing together different legitimate views, especially in combining long-term vision (from the province and with a view to protect a natural area) and short-term vision (from the municipality to mitigate the lack of natural areas and provide residents with a recreational area), could be a challenge.

36. From your perspective as a researcher, which word or phrase characterizes this governance intervention most concisely? (Please attach your name to the characterization) In other words, what is the biggest takeaway from this intervention about governance arrangements?

Appendix 1: Three modes of governance

(from NATURVATION project)

NATURVATION's NBS-Atlas distinguishes three categories of governance arrangements (dubbed "management set-ups":

  • Government-led (Gov)
  • Co-governance or hybrid governance (mix of responsibilities between government and non-government actors) (c/h)
  • Led by non-government actors (NGO)

Alternatively or additionally, the following four modes of governing (as distinguished also by Bulkeley/Kern 2006 and Zvolska et al. 2019) could be used as a typology: Castan Broto/ Bulkeley 2013:95

  1. Self-governing, intervening in the management of local authority operations to ‘‘lead by example’’;
  2. Provision, greening infrastructure and consumer services provided by different authorities;
  3. Regulations, enforcing new laws, planning regulations, building codes, etc.; and
  4. Enabling, supporting initiatives led by other actors through information and resource provision and partnerships”

Appendix 2: Policy typology

(from NATURVATION project)

Policy typology Description Examples
Regulatory (administrative, command-and-control) Mandatory fulfillment of certain requirements by targeted actors Legislations, regulations, laws, directives, etc.
Economic (financial, market-based) Financial (dis)incentives to trigger change by providing (new) favorable (or unfavorable) economic conditions for targeted actors Positive incentive include subsidies, soft loans, tax allowance and procurements. Negative incentives are taxes, fees and charges.
Informative (educational) They aim at providing information or knowledge to target actors in order to increase awareness and support informed decision-making accomplish or prevent social change Information and awareness raising campaigns, informative leaflets, advertisements in different media.
Voluntary Commitment and/or actions beyond legal requirements, undertaken by private actors and/or non-governmental organisations. Voluntary actions and agreements.

test tableau

  1. Background to this question: Our four main criteria for selecting particular governance interventions and develop rich descriptions of them were: A) The intervention has been studied in a specific urban context (e.g. city), B) this context is located in Europe (and, preferably, the study was EU-funded), C) the intervention considers to a large extent sustainability AND justice (at least implicitly), and D) it is well-documented, ideally including assumptions or even critical reflections on enablers and barriers to implementation and on transferability (i.e. ‘de-contextualizability’). Additionally, we aimed at a diverse portfolio of domains (see Q2.) and governance modes (see Q5):
  2. Actor types according to TRANSIT’s Critical Turning Point Database,
  3. If easily possible mention sources for your association of roles.
  4. Deliverable 7.1 Synthesis Report on results from Monitoring and Evaluation (p.14) : .
  5. .
  6. Feel free to include learning that has been made available through EU project documentation, intervention initiatives, or other channels. In addition to the forms in which the learning process has been shared with others, please indicate whether the learning process that’s being shared has been recorded in a self-critical/reflexive way.