Environmental governance for urgent and uncertain problems

Katie MOON, Deborah BLACKMAN, Tom Brewer, Stephen SARRE

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Environmental governance aims to support positive ecological outcomes by establishing effective joint decision-making processes. Yet, complex environmental problems, such as invasive species management, often require urgent action under conditions of uncertainty. Establishing clear and workable environmental governance arrangements in these circumstances can be challenging, or even overlooked completely, in the rush to take action. We undertook an exploratory study, involving semi-structured interviews with 15 policy-makers and scientists, to examine the proposition that some aspects of environmental governance can be more important than others when urgent action is required under conditions of uncertainty. We analysed qualitative data regarding the major decisions points of a case study of invasive species management in Tasmania, Australia. We identified specific elements of governance that, when used under conditions of urgency and uncertainty, can: (a) undermine the ability to establish effective governance arrangements over the longer-term; or alternatively (b) lay the foundation for inclusive and adaptable governance arrangements. Aspects of environmental governance that can be more important than others when responding to urgent and uncertain problems relate to: assessing context; establishing a temporary task-force and setting goals; co-producing knowledge with stakeholders; engaging early; and clarifying and communicating responsibilities and governance arrangements. From our findings, we pose questions for policy-makers and practitioners to ask when responding to urgent problems, creating an opportunity to establish basic governance arrangements even when immediate action is required. These basic arrangements can have the capacity to evolve and respond to increasing levels of certainty, complexity and inclusion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)785-797
Number of pages13
JournalBiological Invasions
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017


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