What and whose “benefits” of urban nature?


In this new study called "Contested representations of benefits of urban nature in a densifying marginalised neighbourhood", we examine diverse representations of "benefits" of urban nature, and how these are considered and operationalised in planning by examining a case of densification in Bellevuegården, a marginalised neighbourhood in Malmö in Sweden. A range of conceptual framings and associated tools are being used to represent benefits of urban nature in planning in order to counteract exploitation or to recreate green areas in urban environments, such as green infrastructure (GI), nature-based solutions (NBS), ecosystem services (ES), and multifunctionality. We here focus on these epistemic dimensions to explore whether, and how, the ways of representing the benefits of nature in urban planning and policy affect outcomes for preserving urban green in a specific case, and whose and what knowledge is included in those representations. By drawing on interviews and document analysis we analyse contested representations of urban green amongst formal planning and residents who have been opposing and appealing the densification plans.

The study reveals how the broad, unsystematic, and flexible interpretations of urban nature benefits contributes to upholding contradictions between densification and greening the city. It shows how technical and functional framings of benefits of nature are privileged in the current planning paradigm, with a lack of inclusion of more social and intangible benefits and values of green spaces. Nonetheless, the study also shows that despite detailed ecosystem services assessments provided by trees, preservation efforts remain inconsistent, revealing limitations in the application of these technical tools.

We call for the further development of inclusive and comprehensive approaches that reflect the spectrum of diverse values of urban natures in planning and governance, especially in marginalized areas where public green spaces are of crucial importance to residents.

 Full paper available here: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09640568.2024.2311822