Investigaciones Regionales – Journal of Regional Research has published the 55th Issue, the first volume corresponding to 2023. This volume is a Special Issue devoted to the study of the processes of institutionalisation of protected natural areas in Spain, together with an international perspective of the topic. This volume has been coordinated by José Antonio Cortés, Beatriz Santamarina and Teresa Vicente.

Below you will find the summaries of the papers published in this volume, which can be accessed at 

Authors are invited to submit papers at

Special Issue 2023: The institutionalization of Protected Natural Areas


Teresa Vicente Rabanaque, José A. Cortés-Vázquez, Beatriz Santamarina Campos

Genealogies of Nature Conservation. Processes of institutionalisation of Protected Areas

The current network of protected areas in Spain has been a product of the transfer of political responsibilities from the State to the autonomous regional governments that began in the 1980s. Among other outcomes, this institutional re-arrangement triggered an unprecedented development of public policies and legislation in the field of nature conservation. In these pages we will trace the contours of a genealogy of what we would call the “institutionalization” of nature conservation, through the diachronic, comparative analysis of three case studies and their specificities: Catalonia, Andalusia and the Valencian Community. We will then expand our analysis to Portugal and, eventually, to the current international context wherein neoliberal conservation policies are expanding nowadays.

Keywords: Protected areas; nature protection; conservation policies; Anthropology of Conservation


Judit Gil-Farrero

Protected areas in Catalonia (1970-1988): social demands, conservation and land-use planning

Public conservation policies in Catalonia began in the 1970s as a response to a demand from civil society, with a growing concern about the negative impacts of Franco’s developmentalism, and were configured as an instrument of land-use planning. Based on qualitative interviews with informants of different profiles who played a special role in this period, this article studies the institutionalisation of nature conservation in Catalonia between 1970 and 1988, analyses the role of the administrations involved, and shows the relevance of the changing political-social context of the period in this process.

Keywords: Protected areas; conservation; environmental policy; land-use planning; Catalonia

Ernesto Martínez-Fernández, Agustín Coca-Pérez, Francisco Javier Escalera-Reyes, David Florido-del-Corral , Santiago M. Cruzada, Felipe Campos-Mardones, José A. Cortés-Vázquez

The natural is political. The construction of the environment as an object of government in the Andalusian context (1978-1989)

Between 1978 and 1989, a nationally and internationally acclaimed nature conservation model was created in Andalusia. It would be the result of a complex political process, marked by contradictory tendencies (the transition from Francoism to parliamentarism, from centralism to autonomy), social-environmental activism, and disputes among professional disciplines (biology, engineering, geography, among others). Using qualitative interviews, hemerographic and documentary sources, we explain this model, its vision and instruments, as a political-administrative apparatus that result from personal relationships and the confrontation between political currents within the ruling party in Andalusia (PSOE) in the context of rising environmentalist demands and movement.

Keywords: Environmental policy; conservationism; Andalusia; protected areas

Miquel À. Ruiz Torres, Beatriz Santamarina Campos, Ana Campo Muñoz

The beginnings of conservation of protected areas in the Valencian Community. The institutionalization of protection as a political tool

The official designation of protected areas in the Valencian Community (Spain) was initiated in the mid-1980s by the first government of the region through the creation of various classes of protection. The process was executed in an expeditious manner following the devolution of environmental management by the Spanish state in 1984. It was carried out in the absence of an adequate legal framework on the regional level; in the context of social mobilization in defence of the moves, as well as varying degrees of local opposition; and parallel to an extensive and expanding urbanization of the coastline. Into this context of legitimization of democratic political powers and shifting approaches to eco-system conservation was then added the concept of urgent protection, but without the sufficient resources and management tools to accomplish it. This paper presents the keys to understanding the initial processes of institutionalization of protected areas in the Valencian Community (Spain) through interviews with the holders of the principle political and managerial positions at the time.

Keywords: Protected areas; patrimonialization of nature; conservation policies; institutionalization of nature; Valencian Community

Ángela Calero Valverde, Teresa Vicente Rabanaque, Judit Gil-Farrero, Félix Talego Vázquez

Citizen mobilization for nature conservation: Democracy, autonomy and protected areas

This article explores the role of social movements in shaping conservation policy in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s in the territories of Catalonia, Andalusia and the Valencian Community. Through qualitative research based on in-depth interviews and documentary analysis, we address from a comparative perspective how citizen mobilization and scientific and academic associations influenced the declaration of the first natural parks through the support or rejection of conservation initiatives.

Keywords: Conservation anthropology; social movements; natural parks; ecology; conservationism

Amélia Frazão-Moreira, Humberto Martins

National and Natural Parks in Portugal. A brief history to understand the appropriation by the state of humanized territories

The text examines legal frameworks in Portugal to discuss how nature conservation has been managed from a state perspective. Natural Protected Areas correspond to a desire of the political sphere to match an international environmental agenda. However, they have been implemented mainly in private properties or in baldios (communal, though not public lands). Therefore, in practical terms, a tension has been always present between the state and the communities and/or private owners since the beginning of the 20th Century with the creation of ‘forest perimeters’. The article flies over the critical turning points in Portuguese conservation policies from the seventies of the 20th Century to present-day with the recently created diploma of co-management for Protected Areas.

Keywords: Portugal; state; protected areas; conservation; legal diplomas

Elia Apostolopoulou

Navigating neoliberal natures in an era of infrastructure expansion and uneven urban development

Since the 2008 global economic crisis, the neoliberalization of nature and space, and consequently of environmental and planning policies, have exacerbated significantly. From infrastructure megaprojects, mining, fracking, waste disposal and land grabbing to shrinking access and loss of public green spaces, uneven gentrification and urban regeneration policies, public spaces, and natures within and beyond cities have been appropriated, privatized, commoditized, profoundly transformed and degraded with the aim to overcome recession and boost urban development. Despite the varying degree of success in pursuing urban growth, this has disproportionally affected people along lines of class, ethnicity, and gender, deepening environmental, social, and spatial inequality in many places across the globe. By drawing on my long-term research on biodiversity offsetting, the key argument I aim to advance in this essay is that since the 2008 financial crash, we have been witnessing the emergence of an increasingly symbiotic relationship between neoliberal conservation policies, infrastructure expansion and uneven urban development. This has been accompanied by the reframing of non-human nature as a movable amenity and has been intertwined with the new territorialities that the profound changes in global urban and economic geographies have brought about. This shift aims to legitimize and render common sense the idea that nature, either a protected area, a forest, an endangered species, or an urban green space, can be simply (re)located and (re)created where the interests of particular sections of capital dictate. Crucially, the underlying argument is not only that non-human nature should not be considered a barrier to infrastructure expansion and urban growth but perfectly compatible with it.

Keywords: Neoliberal conservation; green/un-green grabbing; neoliberal urbanism; urbanization; biodiversity offsetting; infrastructure

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