The International Symposium on Ecosystem Governance held in South Africa during 2005 enabled scientists from several disciplines to debate issues relating to governance. The symposium provided an opportunity to explore the concept of governance, particularly as it relates to ecosystem governance, by interrogating the concepts of a Trialogue Model; and helped to develop a set of pointers for research on ecosystem governance that could stimulate future cooperation.

The working hypothesis is that the Trialogue Model consists of six essential elements, and that successful governance—i.e. good governance—depends on the balance that is achieved between these elements.

The key issues relating to ecosystem governance are presented in this special edition of Water Policy. Each paper interrogates the Trialogue Model, while the pointers for research on ecosystem governance provide a useful way forward for the implementation of government tools. The Trialogue Model of governance provides a simple conceptual construct that directs discussion about current governance processes and structures at different scales. This introductory paper provides an overview of the papers in this special edition, and outlines the set of proposals for research on ecosystem governance.

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