Weaving notions of justice into urban ecosystem services research and practice

Johannes Langemeyer*, James J.T. Connolly

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


In a rising urban age planning for cities around the globe is increasingly based on assessments of ecosystem services, making enhanced considerations of ecosystem service justice critically important. Yet, justice remains a ‘blind spot’ in urban ecosystem service models and research, which can be traced back to the ecological and economic legacies of the concept itself. This legacy reproduces the normative focus on natural capital as a guarantee of sustaining ecosystem services, enforces a static understanding of nature that insufficiently considers human agency, and conceptualizes ecosystem service flows from nature to humans in a way that does not reflect the social-ecological structure and constantly shifting priorities of the urban realm. In response, this conceptual paper aims at broadening the analytical foundation for justice in urban ecosystem service assessments by presenting a model that links the co-production of urban ecosystem services (including infrastructure, institutions, and perceptions) with established lines of recognition, procedural, and distributional justice. It further highlights the need to embed these classical dimensions of justice within both spatial (downscaled and inter-scalar approaches) and temporal (interrelated past, present, and future conditions) justice frames. Relying on urban environmental, social, spatial and temporal justice theory as well ecosystem service scholarship, we outline theoretical entry points and provide practical examples for weaving notions of justice into urban ecosystem service research and practice, while highlighting future research needs.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalEnvironmental Science and Policy
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2020


  • Ecosystem services
  • Environmental justice
  • Equity
  • Plural values
  • Spatial justice
  • Temporal justice

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