There is general acceptance that biodiversity management should be adapted to ecological scale but only recently has the precise role of scale in participatory biodiversity governance begun to be explored. We investigated stakeholder perceptions in three case studies of biodiversity management planning to understand the effect of framing a management response according to the ecological and social scale of the problem on (i) participatory processes and (ii) their social and ecological outcomes. Perceptions of success were highest in the case study where stakeholder involvement reflected the perceived ecological scale of the problem. Other factors contributing to successful outcomes were identified, including effective boundary spanning and mutual recognition of conservation conflicts. Failure to take the latter into account, and to align management responses with socioecological scale, may jeopardize long-term sustainability of biodiversity.