The global urban population is increasing and in many urban areas this, combined with densification, create a strain on urban water management and availability of urban green space. Simultaneously, climate change leads to increased frequency and intensity of cloudbursts and hot spells. To counteract experienced problems, cities are increasingly working to improve urban green space through actively including nature-based solutions (NBS) and their related ecosystem services (ES). From an urban sustainable development perspective, it is important to understand where and how to work with NBS and ES, to benefit the whole society. This task of urban ES governance is challenging, especially as the possibilities to work with green space depend on the amount of available space, which varies greatly in and between cities. The aim of the study was to assess how local stakeholders involved in urban development and regeneration processes in a neighbourhood perceive the physical/environmental and social structures, and their interactions in relation to ES provision. The study focuses on actors that directly or indirectly influence the wellbeing of local residents in the district Sofielund in Malmö, Sweden, and is based on semi-structured interviews with 16 stakeholders, including property owners or managers, businesses and local representatives from the Swedish Union of Tenants.
The results show that local stakeholder involvement is a key to a just urban ES governance. Without acknowledging different stakeholder perspectives, there is a risk that those with more power and louder voices may steer the urban development in a certain direction, leaving the rest devoid of influence. Approaches to involve local residents exist in Sofielund, both within the local community, housing organizations, as well as a part of the ordinary planning process, but several barriers exist for a more structured participatory culture where the interest of local residents are taken into consideration. Particularly relevant for the interviewed stakeholders, is the identified lack of structure for participation and communication between property owners and the municipality. If the distribution of ES is unequal and participatory structures are lacking, stakeholders will perceive that their interests are not considered. In a short-term perspective, this will create unsatisfaction and decreased trust. In the longer perspective, it may create a degradation of the neighbourhood where economically stronger inhabitants move out. By ensuring, that local inhabitants perceive that their needs of green space are recognized and that a potential uneven distributions of ES provision is considered, it is possible to achieve a more just sustainable urban development. Based on these findings, we make four recommendations on how a just urban ES governance could be developed; social and physical development has to be seen as a whole, power structures have to be recognized, inclusive engagement structures have to be put in place, measurements of ES have to target relative ES provision, related to the needs of differet groups of residents groups.