The concept of the Portuguese National Ecological Reserve: constraints and impossibilities in the Azores Archipelago
The biophysical features of small islands (SI) distinguish them from other territories; isolation, small size and several anthropogenic pressures reduce the resilience of ecosystems and increase their vulnerability to global changes. Many SI have a shortage of infrastructures, institutions and technical/financial resources that hinder planning and require different integrated solutions. In Portugal, the National Ecological Reserve (NER) is legally binding for spatial planning instruments. It aims to defend natural values and areas of ecological value, or sensibility, or susceptible to natural hazards. However, the criteria for the design of NER are strictly set for mainland territory, not taking into account specific features of small islands. A case study of the Azores Archipelago is used to demonstrate that spatial planning instruments should be adapted to island contexts. Such adaptation will increase the effectiveness of their implementation in relation to the protection of natural resources, stability of biophysical structures and prevention of natural hazards. Observing the main differences between mainland and the Azores Archipelago it is possible to define a methodological transposition of the NER aims and goals into an island context. This approach is an answer to the constraints in effective adaptation of spatial planning instruments for islands.