Conventional perceptions of the interactions between people and their environment are rapidly transforming. Old paradigms that view humans as separate from nature, natural resources as inexhaustible or endlessly substitutable, and the world as stable, predictable, and in balance are no longer tenable. New conceptual frameworks are rapidly emerging based on an adaptive approach that focuses on learning and flexible management in a dynamic social-ecological landscape. Using two iconic World Heritage Areas as case studies (the Great Barrier Reef and the Grand Canyon) we outline how an improved integration of the scientific and social aspects of natural resource management can guide the evolution of multiscale systems of governance that confront and cope with uncertainty, risk, and change in an increasingly human-dominated world.
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