Within the framework of the First Sustainability Forum in Llanquihue – City of Wetlands, various experts jointly discussed with local actors the importance of conserving and valuing urban ecosystems, given the role they play in providing ecosystem and cultural services that benefit territories, communities and local economies. From a strategic and forward-thinking perspective, these ecosystems are potentially key pieces in an urban green infrastructure network, which, in conjunction with other types of green spaces, allows for the creation of a city project based on the landscape.
A quick glance from the air over the city of Llanquihue provides us with information about the relevant presence of various existing ecosystems: the drainage area of Lake Llanquihue that starts the Maullín River, the lake edge and the urban wetland system, including most notably the Baquedano, El Loto and Las Ranas wetlands. Added to this are some patches of forest in the surrounding rural area, poplar groves and other species typical of the productive landscape of this area of Chile. However, this promising landscape mosaic that can be seen from the air is revealed with more complexity if we look more carefully. As with these types of spaces in our cities, illegal micro dumps, liquid wastes that pollute the waters, road infrastructure that fragments the city, housing and other uses on the margins with little sensitivity regarding their dynamics and ecological components all this can be observed. Despite these problems, there is a comparative advantage in the case of Llanquihue: it is a community sensitized to the importance of conserving and valuing urban ecosystems. Fortunately, we can also add there is an awareness on the part of municipal authorities and private actors committed to the environment, as evidenced by the First Sustainability Forum in Llanquihue – City of Wetlands, organized by Fundación Legado Chile (1).
(1) First Sustainability Forum in Llanquihue, held between November 8 and 10, 2016, organized by the Fundación Legado Chile <http//:www.legadochile.cl>. See also Romy Hecht and Fundación Legado Chile, ‘Te Invitamos a Ver la Ciudad con Otros Ojos: Primer Foro de la Sustentabilidad en Llanquihue, Chile’ (We invite you to see the City with Different Eyes: First Sustainability Forum in Llanquihue, Chile in LOFscapes (Nov. 8, 2016)Nov. 2016) <http://www.lofscapes.com/blog/2016/11/6/te-invitamos-a-ver-la-ciudad-con-otros-ojos-primer-foro-de-la-sustentabilidad-en-llanquihue-chile>
In this context, from a strategic and forward-thinking perspective, these ecosystems are considered as potential key pieces of an urban green infrastructure network, which, together with other types of green spaces, allow for the creation of a city project based on the landscape, highlighting the role it can play in providing ecosystem and cultural services that benefit local territories, communities and economies. The notion of green infrastructure considers a systemic, integrative and overriding look at the traditional models associated with the management of urban green areas, promoting an innovative approach to rethink, understand and manage those systems and components that contribute to the balance of life in its multiple forms – human, animal, vegetable – and that generally in the urban context are degraded, neglected or hidden. Rivers, estuaries, streams, wetlands, hills, agricultural areas, old forests, almost in the manner of a puzzle, are urban ecosystems that are available to reconnect and strengthen, establishing synergies and complementarities with other more conventional green spaces, such as parks, squares and gardens, which can provide important benefits for the population in and around the city (2).
(2) See Osvaldo Moreno, ‘La infraestructura verde como espacio de integración’ (Green infrastructure as a space for integration) in Libro Digital Simposio Internacional UPE11 (La Plata, 2014).
Green infrastructure is defined as an interconnected network of green spaces − urban, peri-urban, rural and wild − that conserves and provides ecosystem functions and environmental services for the human population, at the level of provision of clean water, improvement of air quality, mitigation of heat island effects, conservation of biodiversity and wildlife, recreation, scenic beauty and disaster protection, among other benefits (3). In terms of experience and international references, the incorporation of green infrastructure as a regulatory or guiding instrument compatible with land use planning is evidenced in various initiatives worldwide, especially in Europe and the United States. Among them, the Green Infrastructure Plan and Landscape of the Valencian Community (2011), the Vitoria-Gasteiz Green Ring Plan (2010), the Natural England planning guidelines, Green Infrastructure Guidance (2009) ), the Plan for the State of New York, Green Infrastructure and Low Impact Development Evaluation and Implementation – Plan NYSDEC (2012), and closer to home the Plan BIO 2030 of Medellín and the Aburrá Valley (4).
(3) See Mark Benedict and Edward Mcmahon, Green Infrastructure: Linking Landscapes and Communities (Washington, DC: Island Press, 2006).
(4) Moreno, ‘Paisaje, riesgo y resiliencia. La arquitectura del paisaje en la modelación sustentable del territorio’, (Landscape, Risk, and Resilience. Landscape architecture in the sustainable modeling of the territory) in Revista FORUM Cátedra UNESCO sobre Desarrollo Sostenible. UPV/EHU · Bilbao 6 (2013).
In Chile, regional cities such as Llanquihue constitute a favorable scenario for integrating the notion of green infrastructure into urban planning and management, given their proximity to wild areas and rural territories that still retain areas of high cultural and natural value. Furthermore, the existence of rivers, estuaries, wetlands, island hills and streams within these cities are all relevant given the potential for these areas to be integrated into the city’s green infrastructure system, providing key ecosystem and cultural services to improve the urban environmental quality. Consequently, this increases the competitiveness of these cities to attract human capital and investments, contributing to the decentralization of the country. Also, from the perspective of territorial governance, the fact that these cities have a municipal government − instead of the multiple municipalities as in large cities − allows for a higher level of management for the development of such initiatives. Similarly, the ministerial secretariats and the regional government often have closer communication that allows for collaboration and integrated planning and management to rethink the city from the landscape, through the enhancement of urban ecosystems as part of a green infrastructure network.
Osvaldo Moreno Flores is an architect of the University of Chile, holds a Master’s degree in Landscape Architecture, Environment and City Planning from the National University of La Plata and holds a Ph.D. (c) in Architecture and Urban Planning. He is currently an academic of the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism of the University of Chile and of the School of Architecture of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, where he is also Head of the Master’s Program in Landscape Architecture.