Demystifying Governance and its Role for Transitions in Urban Social–Ecological Systems

Tischa A. Muñoz-Erickson, USDA Forest Service
Lindsay K. Campbell, USDA Forest Service
Daniel L. Childers, Arizona State University
J. Morgan Grove, USDA Forest Service
David M. Iwaniec, Georgia State University
Steward T.A. Pickett, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies
Michele Romolini, Loyola Marymount University
Erika S. Svendsen, USDA Forest Service

Originally published in

Munoz-Erickson, T., L. Campbell, D.L. Childers, M. Grove, D.M. Iwaniec, E. Svenden, S. Pickett, M. Romolini. (2016) Demystifying governance and its role for transitions in urban social-ecological systems. Ecosphere 7(11):1–11.


Governance is key to sustainable urban transitions. Governance is a system of social, power, and decision‐making processes that acts as a key driver of resource allocation and use, yet ecologists—even urban ecologists–seldom consider governance concepts in their work. Transitions to more sustainable futures are becoming increasingly important to the management of many ecosystems and landscapes, and particularly so for urban systems. We briefly identify and synthesize important governance dimensions of urban sustainability transitions, using illustrations from cities in which long‐term social–ecological governance research is underway. This article concludes with a call to ecologists who are interested in environmental stewardship, and to urban ecologists in particular, to consider the role of governance as a driver in the dynamics of the systems they study.