Incorporating Metabolic Thinking into Regional Planning: The Case of the Sierra Calderona Strategic Plan

A metabolic study of the South-Eastern part of the Calderona Mountain Range (Sierra Calderona) was developed in 2014 as a part of the Sierra Calderona Strategic Plan (SCSP). The goal of the study was to define strategies to optimise materials and energy flows in the region and, thereby, enhance the sustainability of the entire regional system. Due to its location on the outskirts of the Metropolitan Area of Valencia, Sierra Calderona presents most of the metabolic challenges and potentials that characterise peri-urban areas, giving the SCSP case a wider and transferable interest.
After introducing the scope, rationale, and research questions, the article first summarises the main theoretical and methodological frameworks underpinning the integration of metabolic studies in regional and urban planning. Following our literature review, the article focuses on the way in which the metabolic analyses were inputted and informed the different phases and outcomes of the SCSP: analysis and diagnosis, regional objectives and strategies, landscape and land-use plan, sectoral plans and pilot projects. This approach was based on the combination of complementary analytical methods such as material and energy flow accounting and Ecological Footprint Analysis. Additionally, the article reflects on how new conceptual tools such as the Functional Metabolic Areas were used in the SCSP in order to operate in a complex spatial system and to generate a regional metabolic model. Subsequently, the main contributions and shortcomings of the use of metabolic inputs in the SCSP are discussed by comparing the metabolic assessment approach adopted in the SCSP with available models and methods. Finally, our conclusions suggest potential improvements and future lines of research on a two-way implication between urban metabolism research and regional and urban planning practice.

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