Ecosystem management and governance of cross-scale dependent systems require integrating knowledge about ecological connectivity in its multiple forms and scales. Although scientists, managers, and policymakers are increasingly recognizing the importance of connectivity, governmental organizations may not be currently equipped to manage ecosystems with strong cross-boundary dependencies. Managing the different aspects of connectivity requires building social connectivity to increase the flow of information, as well as the capacity to coordinate planning, funding, and actions among both formal and informal governance bodies. We use estuaries in particular the San Francisco Estuary, in California, in the United States, as examples of cross-scale dependent systems affected by many intertwined aspects of connectivity. We describe the different types of estuarine connectivity observed in both natural and human-affected states and discuss the human dimensions of restoring beneficial physical and ecological processes. Finally, we provide recommendations for policy, practice, and research on how to restore functional connectivity to estuaries.

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