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Cross-Scale Linkages in Connectivity Conservation: Adaptive governance challenges in spatially distributed networks



Adaptive governance aspires to support learning and experimentation through polycentric and collaborative approaches. Collaborative decision-making focused around a particular problem or region, the ideal suggests, enables actors to have greater flexibility to experiment, learn and respond to the particularities of their landscape. This paper examines the theoretical promise of adaptive governance through an in-depth case study of a connectivity conservation initiative in Australia. Habitat 141° is a network of public, private and civil society actors seeking to align conservation actions dispersed across large spatial scales. In addition to well-established challenges to collaborative practice, sustaining the complex governance arrangements intended to connect local-to-regional scales undermined Habitat 141°’s capacity to provide vertical and horizontal connections between scales of decision-making. Without these linkages, Habitat 141°’s envisaged governance structure was unable to support the necessary functions of coordination and self-organization critical to polycentric governance. This paper highlights challenges to collective action in spatially distributed networks, providing critical empirical insight into the practical challenges of adaptive governance in nested, collaborative, polycentric networks. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment