Table 1. Core environmental governance issues or challenges (adapted from Armitage et al. 2012)

Core issue
or challenge
Description Selected key references
Accountability and legitimacy Accountability concerns the responsible exercise of power (through standards and systems) as entities (individuals, organizations, agencies) acknowledge and assume responsibilities of actions and determine outcomes. Legitimacy involves the power to influence others and approval of an institution or actor by an entity subject to its actions, encompassing procedural (how decisions are made) and substantive (morals, values, beliefs) dimensions within a socially constructed context. Broadening accountability and legitimacy from formal legal arrangements to reflect its pluralist forms and nonformal sources is stressed.
 
Suchman 1995, Van Kersbergen and Van Waarden 2004, Trachtenber and Focht 2005, Tyler 2006, Paavola 2007, Beisheim and Dingwerth 2008, Ballesteros et al. 2010
Actors and roles Governance, as opposed to government, emphasizes participation by diverse nonstate actors in decision making and prompts a range of potential roles for all actors. Role ambiguity is a concern and redundancy and layering of roles is beneficial in light of uncertainty. Incentivizing participation, a supportive policy framework, and connecting individuals/organizations are salient considerations.
 
Singleton 2002, Dietz et al. 2003, Savan et al. 2004, Ansell and Gash 2008
Fit, interplay, and scale The interconnected and nested nature of social-ecological systems is paramount. Arrangements need to reflect the scale of the environmental concern (e.g., spatial fit) as well as acknowledge/respond to the dynamism of cross-scale and cross-level interactions (e.g., threshold behavior, cascading effects). Multilevel arrangements that involve multiple linkages stress connections among actors in a networked fashion. Although such arrangements confer adaptability and stability, they also may confront issues of interplay, constrain integration, and be cumbersome.
 
Gibson et al. 2000, Ostrom et al. 2002, Dietz et al. 2003, Cash et al. 2006, Moss 2007, Pahl-Wostel et al. 2008, Young et al. 2008
Adaptiveness, flexibility, and learning Adaptiveness responds to the uncertainty and change that characterize complex systems and catalyzes attention on fostering resilience and building adaptive capacity. Arrangements in structure and function need flexibility to counter uncertainty as well as platforms to learn from feedback. Learning takes place individually and collectively. It is a social process and outcome arrived at by the participation and interaction of diverse actors who learn by doing and modifying their actions based on feedback.
 
Lee 1993, Folke et al. 2002, Westley 2002, Folke et al. 2005, Armitage 2008, Armitage et al. 2008, Biermann and Pattberg 2008
Evaluation and monitoring Evaluation is concerned with systematically assessing the value of the goal-oriented deliberative intervention in regard to a social-ecological system. Assessment and monitoring that is participatory, interactive, and multiscale are required. Extending evaluation parameters beyond easily observable process elements and outcomes is highlighted. Diagnostic approaches direct attention to identifying and monitoring critical variables. Selecting and matching appropriate indicators to the scale of assessments is a challenge.
 
Bellamy et al. 2001, Conley and Moote 2003, Garaway and Arthur 2004, Ostrom 2007, Plummer and Armitage 2007
Knowledge Environmental governance requires an intense amount of diverse information. The value of multiple knowledge sources, diverse types of knowledge, and means to facilitate exchange are stressed. In going beyond amalgamating information, emphasis is placed on the coproduction of knowledge as generated collaboratively through the interactions of diverse actors. Accepting the dynamism and contingency of knowledge is a notable challenge.
 
Cortner 2000, Kates et al. 2001, Clark 2001, Bäckstrand 2003, Hahn et al. 2006, Blackstock and Carter 2007, Berkes 2009