Transformative Environmental Governance

Brian C. Chaffin, Ahjond S. Garmestani, Lance H. Gunderson, Melinda Harm Benson, David G. Angeler, Craig Anthony Tony, Barbara Cosens, Robin Kundis Craig, J. B. Ruhl, Craig R. Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

246 Scopus citations


Transformative governance is an approach to environmental governance that has the capacity to respond to, manage, and trigger regime shifts in coupled social-ecological systems (SESs) at multiple scales. The goal of transformative governance is to actively shift degraded SESs to alternative, more desirable, or more functional regimes by altering the structures and processes that define the system. Transformative governance is rooted in ecological theories to explain cross-scale dynamics in complex systems, as well as social theories of change, innovation, and technological transformation. Similar to adaptive governance, transformative governance involves a broad set of governance components, but requires additional capacity to foster new social-ecological regimes including increased risk tolerance, significant systemic investment, and restructured economies and power relations. Transformative governance has the potential to actively respond to regime shifts triggered by climate change, and thus future research should focus on identifying system drivers and leading indicators associated with social-ecological thresholds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)399-423
Number of pages25
JournalAnnual Review of Environment and Resources
StatePublished - Oct 17 2016


  • Adaptive governance
  • Governance
  • Panarchy
  • Regime shifts
  • Resilience
  • Social-ecological systems
  • Transformation
  • Transformative governance


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