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From local to central: a network analysis of who manages plant pest and disease outbreaks across scales

Ryan R. J. McAllister, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
Catherine J Robinson, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
Kirsten Maclean, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
Angela M Guerrero, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation; ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, The University of Queensland
Kerry Collins, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
Bruce M Taylor, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
Paul J De Barro, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation


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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.

Key words

banana; cross scale; Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed; EPPRD; exponential random graph model; false Panama

Copyright © 2015 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087