One of the key determinants of success in managing natural resources is “institutional fit,” i.e., how well the suite of required actions collectively match the scale of the environmental problem. The effective management of pest and pathogen threats to plants is a natural resource problem of particular economic, social, and environmental importance. Responses to incursions are managed by a network of decision makers and managers acting at different spatial and temporal scales. We applied novel network theoretical methods to assess the propensity of growers, local industry, local state government, and state and national government head offices to foster either within- or across-scale coordination during the successful 2001 Australian response to the outbreak of the fungal pathogen black sigatoka (Mycosphaerella fijiensis). We also reconstructed the response network to proxy what that network would look like today under the Australian government’s revised response system. We illustrate a structural move in the plant biosecurity response system from one that was locally driven to the current top-down system, in which the national government leads coordination of a highly partitioned engagement process. For biological incursions that spread widely across regions, nationally rather than locally managed responses may improve coordination of diverse tasks. However, in dealing with such challenges of institutional fit, local engagement will always be critical in deploying flexible and adaptive local responses based on a national system. The methods we propose detect where and how network structures foster cross-scale interactions, which will contribute to stronger empirical studies of cross-scale environmental governance.
McAllister, R., Robinson, C., Maclean, K., Guerrero, A. M., Collins, K., Taylor, B., & De Barro, P. (2015). From local to central: a network analysis of who manages plant pest and disease outbreaks across scales. Ecology and Society, 20, . https://doi.org/10.5751/ES-07469-200167