This paper develops an “internal” critique of the Ecosystem Services approach (ESS) to understand the contested role of ecosystems in urban landscapes. By using studies from Cape Town and Stockholm, it brings together three wider strands of literature, from Social-Ecological Systems and resilience theory (SES), Urban Political Ecology (UPE) and Environmental Justice (EJ) it develops a framework that aims to understand how ecosystem services can be viewed as both a material outcome of unequal urban processes, but also a discursive and contested tool to articulation value of ‘urban green spaces’. It urges the wider ESS-community to integrate critical analysis and environmental justice analyses to better handle contested urban landscapes where ’services’ are not equally distributed, while retaining the notion that ’services’ emerge out of multi-scaled socio-ecological processes. It provides an alternative and more critical definition of resilience as the capacity “to sustain a certain set of benefits from biophysical processes, in face of uncertainty and change, for a certain set of humans”.

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