Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 723–739 | Cite as

Assembling the pieces: a framework for the integration of multi-functional ecological main structure in the emerging urban region of Bogotá, Colombia

  • Germán I. AndradeEmail author
  • Fernando Remolina
  • Diana Wiesner


Bogotá, the capital of the Republic of Colombia, is a tropical highland city located 2,650 m above sea level. It is the 25th largest city in the world and, among large cities, is also one of the highest. In common with other cities in Latin America, a large part of its urban growth during recent centuries has been unplanned and informal. The introduction of green spaces into urban planning in Bogotá began in the mid-20th century, but was first included in official legislation during the 1990s through the concept of Ecological Main Structure (EMS). Initially developed by Dutch scholars, EMS was brought to Colombia via biological conservation practitioners as a means of enhancing biological connectivity in rural and natural landscapes, extended in this case to urban landscapes as a top-level planning instrument. EMS originally included a variety of components, from protected areas and biological conservation tools to environmental urban elements - the emphasis being on biodiversity conservation, without sufficient recognition of specific urban structures and functions. This process led to conceptual disciplinary-based divergence and conflicting political interpretations. The current emergence of EMS as a planning tool for urban regions represents an opportunity for integration, although the risk of divergent interpretations remains, as no integrative conceptual framework has yet been developed. In this paper we review the concepts underlying EMS that have been incorporated within urban and regional planning, especially those of ecological networks and green infrastructure, and also diagnose conceptual and institutional barriers to its current integration, challenges and opportunities which are set in the context of an emerging urban region. We propose a trans-disciplinary framework for multi-level integration of EMS, along a gradient from wild environments to built structures that incorporates emerging concepts such as urban biodiversity, ecosystem services and design in the urban landscape, with the aim of contributing to the creation of an urban landscape that is resilient to environmental change and suitable for human well-being and adaptation.


Urban regions Ecological main structure Ecological networks Green infrastructure Urban biodiversity Design in urban landscape Ecosystem services Bogotá 



This work was made possible thanks to the financial support provided by the Research Committee of the School of Management, Universidad de los Andes. We thank Elizabeth Valenzuela, Juan Manuel Pinzón and Andrea Olaya of the Environmental Secretariat of the District of Bogotá for their continued support during the review of Bogotá Land Use Planning.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Germán I. Andrade
    • 1
    Email author
  • Fernando Remolina
    • 2
  • Diana Wiesner
    • 2
  1. 1.School of ManagementUniversidad de los AndesBogotáColombia
  2. 2.Fundación Cerros de BogotáBogotáColombia

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