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Investigating Latent Patterns of Urban Planning in Rome and Barcelona through Soil Quality and Desertification Indices

Ilaria Zambon, Ilaria Tombolini, Luca Salvati


Recent urbanization led to economic changes exerting a relevant impact on peri-urban soils, and rising environmental concern in ecologically fragile districts. Spatial planning contributes to achieve sustainable land-use patterns and to drive optimal location of settlements and infrastructure. However, spatial planning has been sometimes unable to interpret and manage complex processes of metropolitan development, fueling unregulated and mainly dispersed urban expansion on land with less stringent building constraints. Considering Rome and Barcelona as emblematic cases of dispersed urbanization, this study investigates if the current planning system in the two cities has been conceived in a strategic perspective oriented towards conservation and enhancement of soil quality. The highest values of SDI were detected in consolidated urban areas, indicating processes of land take involving buildable, high-quality soils, and in the environmental network surrounding both cities. Land devoted to natural and semi-natural land-use had a lower soil quality. Results of this study may inform regional planning and policies for preservation of high-quality soils, especially under weak (or partial) regulatory constraints.


Fringe land, Mediterranean city, Land degradation, Indicators.

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