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Special Issue "Environmental Governance for Sustainability"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Sustainable Use of the Environment and Resources".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 May 2017)

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Dr. Michael Schoon

School of Sustainability, Arizona State University, PO Box 875502, Tempe, AZ, United States
Website | E-Mail
Interests: governance; institutions; conservation; sustainability; collaboration, resilience
Guest Editor
Dr. Michael Cox

Department of Environmental Studies, Dartmouth College, 105 Fairchild HB 6182, Hanover, NH, United States
Website | E-Mail
Interests: governance; institutions; evolution; adaptation; social-ecological systems

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

We are pleased to edit a Special Issue of the journal, Sustainability, entitled “Environmental Governance for Sustainability”. Since the publication of Dietz et al. (2003), “The Struggle to Govern the Commons” in the journal Science, scholars have increasingly focused on the governance challenges inherent in complex adaptive systems—nonlinearities and tipping points, evolving and dynamic social and ecological agents, and emergent behavior. In dealing with such phenomena in subsequent research, scholars have identified a number of specific challenges in the sustainable governance of social-ecological systems including: 1) working across scale, the nesting of institutions, and linking governance decision-makers horizontally and vertically; 2) creating institutional arrangements that change through adaptation and evolutionary forces to maintain robustness and resilience in a dynamic, ever changing environment; and 3) building collaborative arrangements across political and administrative barriers and boundaries to govern at the scale of the sustainability challenge.

In this Special Issue, we seek to operationalize the “adaptive” element of adaptive governance. We want to emphasize specific examples of adaptation in governance, whether through theoretical extensions or multiple methodological approaches, such as meta-analyses, modeling, and case studies. We see the most prominent type of adaptive process as an evolutionary one. An evolutionary process is well defined and contains widely accepted principles and components. As such, viewing social-ecological adaptation as an evolutionary process serves as a likely candidate for clarifying exactly what is meant by adaptation in environmental governance.

Dr. Michael Schoon
Dr. Michael Cox
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Governance
  • adaptation
  • collaboration
  • social-ecological systems

Published Papers (12 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle Objectives for Stakeholder Engagement in Global Environmental Assessments
Sustainability 2017, 9(9), 1571; doi:10.3390/su9091571
Received: 8 August 2017 / Revised: 30 August 2017 / Accepted: 31 August 2017 / Published: 4 September 2017
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Abstract
Global environmental assessments (GEAs) are among the most large-scale, formalized processes for synthesizing knowledge at the science–policy–society interface. The successful engagement of diverse stakeholders in GEAs is often described as a crucial mechanism for increasing their legitimacy, salience and credibility. However, the diversity
[...] Read more.
Global environmental assessments (GEAs) are among the most large-scale, formalized processes for synthesizing knowledge at the science–policy–society interface. The successful engagement of diverse stakeholders in GEAs is often described as a crucial mechanism for increasing their legitimacy, salience and credibility. However, the diversity of perspectives on the more precise objectives for stakeholder engagement remains largely unclear. The aims of this study are to categorize and characterize the diversity of perspectives on objectives for stakeholder engagement in GEAs; to explore differences in perspectives within and between different stakeholder groups and categories; and to test whether the more practical prioritization and selection of objectives in GEAs can be linked to deliberative policy learning as a higher-level rationale for stakeholder engagement. For these purposes, we conduct a grounded theory analysis and a keyword analysis of interview material and official GEA documents relating to two GEAs: UN Environment’s Fifth Global Environment Outlook and the Working Group III contribution to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report. Based on the analysis, we identify six categories of objectives and present as hypotheses promising ways forward for prioritizing and characterizing objectives for stakeholder engagement in GEAs, as well as potential reasons for the differences between perspectives on objectives. This study draws attention to the need for future GEA processes to have more explicit discussions on the objectives for stakeholder engagement, as well as the importance of moving towards increasingly deliberative and inclusive assessment processes more broadly. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Governance for Sustainability)
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Open AccessArticle Reframing for Sustainability: Exploring Transformative Power of Benefit Sharing
Sustainability 2017, 9(8), 1486; doi:10.3390/su9081486
Received: 14 June 2017 / Revised: 14 August 2017 / Accepted: 17 August 2017 / Published: 22 August 2017
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Abstract
It is broadly agreed that development needs and effects from changing environment will increase pressure on the ways natural resources are utilized and shared at present. In most parts of the world, resource stress has already reached unprecedented levels setting resource sustainability high
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It is broadly agreed that development needs and effects from changing environment will increase pressure on the ways natural resources are utilized and shared at present. In most parts of the world, resource stress has already reached unprecedented levels setting resource sustainability high on the policy agenda on multiple governance levels. This paper aims to explain how the benefit sharing approach can help reframe the debate for sustainability, its advantages and disadvantages for transforming governance challenges and adapting to increasing resource stress. We bring together fragmented discussions of benefit sharing from three resource domains: water, land, and biodiversity. Both theoretical and empirical examples are provided to aid understanding of how benefit sharing can facilitate adaptive governance processes in complex socio-ecological systems. The findings highlight importance of integrating the long-term perspective when societies move from volumes toward values of shared natural resources, as well as setting environmental conservation and equitable allocation as the top priority for benefit sharing to be sustainable. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Governance for Sustainability)
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Open AccessArticle Making Space for Proactive Adaptation of Rapidly Changing Coasts: A Windows of Opportunity Approach
Sustainability 2017, 9(8), 1408; doi:10.3390/su9081408
Received: 19 July 2017 / Accepted: 1 August 2017 / Published: 9 August 2017
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Abstract
Coastlines are very often places where the impacts of global change are felt most keenly, and they are also often sites of high values and intense use for industry, human habitation, nature conservation and recreation. In many countries, coastlines are a key contested
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Coastlines are very often places where the impacts of global change are felt most keenly, and they are also often sites of high values and intense use for industry, human habitation, nature conservation and recreation. In many countries, coastlines are a key contested territory for planning for climate change, and also locations where development and conservation conflicts play out. As a “test bed” for climate change adaptation, coastal regions provide valuable, but highly diverse experiences and lessons. This paper sets out to explore the lessons of coastal planning and development for the implementation of proactive adaptation, and the possibility to move from adaptation visions to actual adaptation governance and planning. Using qualitative analysis of interviews and workshops, we first examine what the barriers are to proactive adaptation at the coast, and how current policy and practice frames are leading to avoidable lock-ins and other maladaptive decisions that are narrowing our adaptation options. Using examples from UK, we then identify adaptation windows that can be opened, reframed or transformed to set the course for proactive adaptation which links high level top-down legislative requirements with local bottom-up actions. We explore how these windows can be harnessed so that space for proactive adaptation increases and maladaptive decisions are reduced. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Governance for Sustainability)
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Open AccessArticle Multilateral Governance for Climate Change Adaptation in S. Korea: The Mechanisms of Formulating Adaptation Policies
Sustainability 2017, 9(8), 1364; doi:10.3390/su9081364
Received: 31 May 2017 / Revised: 9 July 2017 / Accepted: 28 July 2017 / Published: 3 August 2017
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Abstract
This paper explores the current trajectory of multilateral governance for climate change adaptation in S. Korea, which is characterised by vertical and horizontal adaptation governance. This article highlights that the characteristics of adaptation governance can be realised more effectively through grassroot activities at
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This paper explores the current trajectory of multilateral governance for climate change adaptation in S. Korea, which is characterised by vertical and horizontal adaptation governance. This article highlights that the characteristics of adaptation governance can be realised more effectively through grassroot activities at both metropolitan and local government levels. In particular, a thorough examination on the implemented adaptation measures (‘national climate change adaptation scheme’, ‘national climate change adaptation centre’, and the climate change ‘Ansim Village’ project) as well as the limitations at the national and local level were carried out. Ultimately, as a result, this paper suggests of the effective multilateral governance for climate change adaptation; enhancing the multilateral partnership between the national government and local governments, facilitating horizontal governance within the adaptation departments of local governments, managing adaptation horizontal governance by sectors according to the characteristics of climate change risk, and establishing sustainable adaptation governance for ‘Ansim’ Village. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Governance for Sustainability)
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Open AccessArticle An Analysis of the Global Applicability of Ostrom’s Design Principles to Diagnose the Functionality of Common-Pool Resource Institutions
Sustainability 2017, 9(7), 1287; doi:10.3390/su9071287
Received: 24 May 2017 / Revised: 5 July 2017 / Accepted: 13 July 2017 / Published: 24 July 2017
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Abstract
There are a number of gaps in reviews relating Ostrom’s design principles (DPs) to common-pool resource (CPR) institutions. These include the geographical distribution of CPRs, the performance of young CPRs relative to the DPs, and the relationship between robustness and success in adherence
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There are a number of gaps in reviews relating Ostrom’s design principles (DPs) to common-pool resource (CPR) institutions. These include the geographical distribution of CPRs, the performance of young CPRs relative to the DPs, and the relationship between robustness and success in adherence to the DPs. to This research aims to: (i) explicitly analyze the geographical distribution of the case studies that have used the DPs, (ii) explore the relationship between the DPs and young CPR institutions, (iii) examine the relationship between robustness and success of CPR institutions based on the DPs, and (iv) identify additional factors contributing to the performance of CPR institutions. In relation to Ostrom’s DPs, the CPRs under review involve management only by the community, co-management between the community and the state, and co-management between the community and non-governmental organizations. The results show that: DPs have been applied in all the inhabited continents; the expression of the DPs is affected by the geographical settings; the DPs do not conclusively diagnose the functionality of young and viable CPR institutions, whereas they may do so for either the short-lived (failed) or the long-lasting institutions; the relationship between robustness and success appears weak; and there are additional factors that contribute to the outcomes of CPR management. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Governance for Sustainability)
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Open AccessArticle Accelerating Transition Dynamics in City Regions: A Qualitative Modeling Perspective
Sustainability 2017, 9(7), 1254; doi:10.3390/su9071254
Received: 31 May 2017 / Revised: 10 July 2017 / Accepted: 12 July 2017 / Published: 18 July 2017
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Abstract
In this article, we take stock of the findings from conceptual and empirical work on the role of transition initiatives for accelerating transitions as input for modeling acceleration dynamics. We applied the qualitative modeling approach of causal loop diagrams to capture the dynamics
[...] Read more.
In this article, we take stock of the findings from conceptual and empirical work on the role of transition initiatives for accelerating transitions as input for modeling acceleration dynamics. We applied the qualitative modeling approach of causal loop diagrams to capture the dynamics of a single transition initiative evolving within its regional context. In doing so, we aim to address two key challenges in transition modeling, namely conceptualization, and the framing of empirical insights obtained for various case study regions in a consistent modeling framework. Our results show that through this systematic approach one can translate conceptual and qualitative empirical work into a transition model design. Moreover, the causal loop diagrams can be used as discussion tools to support dialogue among researchers and stakeholders, and may support a comparison of transition dynamics across case-study regions. We reflect on main limitations related to empirical model validation (lack of data) and to model structure (high level of aggregation), and describe next steps for moving from a qualitative single transition initiative to a quantitative multiple transition initiatives model. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Governance for Sustainability)
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Open AccessArticle Strategic Adaptive Governance and Climate Change: Policymaking during Extreme Political Upheaval
Sustainability 2017, 9(7), 1244; doi:10.3390/su9071244
Received: 28 May 2017 / Revised: 9 July 2017 / Accepted: 12 July 2017 / Published: 16 July 2017
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Abstract
Adaptive governance seeks to address complicated and difficult policy problems. Due to the extreme political upheaval wrought by the Trump administration’s dismantling of federal climate change programs, many state and local governments are considering new policy approaches. Yet by ignoring crucial aspects of
[...] Read more.
Adaptive governance seeks to address complicated and difficult policy problems. Due to the extreme political upheaval wrought by the Trump administration’s dismantling of federal climate change programs, many state and local governments are considering new policy approaches. Yet by ignoring crucial aspects of politics and intergovernmental relations, the adaptive governance literature provides little guidance for such substantial issues. This paper introduces the concept of strategic adaptive governance, a framework for permitting policymakers to achieve the highest rate of compliance possible under existing conditions and constraints involving state and local policy, despite political upheaval. The strategic adaptive governance model embraces politics, accounts for the role of central authorities, and emphasizes the motivations, resources, and interdependencies of affected parties. We apply the model in an analysis of California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32), examining the extent to which it aligns with strategic adaptive governance, and evaluating the potential for the state to utilize the model. We find that AB 32 aligns moderately with strategic adaptive governance, and discuss how the model could help protect and enhance policy gains. More broadly, strategic adaptive governance provides a generic and universal framework for policymakers interested in tactical formulation of any regulatory policy. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Governance for Sustainability)
Open AccessArticle Environmental Governance for the Anthropocene? Social-Ecological Systems, Resilience, and Collaborative Learning
Sustainability 2017, 9(7), 1232; doi:10.3390/su9071232
Received: 13 June 2017 / Revised: 10 July 2017 / Accepted: 11 July 2017 / Published: 13 July 2017
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (243 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The Anthropocene is characterized by rapid global change, necessitating adaptive governance. But how can such adaptive governance be operationalized? The article offers a three-point argument to approach this question. First, people and environment need to be considered together, as social (human) and ecological
[...] Read more.
The Anthropocene is characterized by rapid global change, necessitating adaptive governance. But how can such adaptive governance be operationalized? The article offers a three-point argument to approach this question. First, people and environment need to be considered together, as social (human) and ecological (biophysical) subsystems are linked by mutual feedbacks, and are interdependent and co-evolutionary. These integrated systems of humans and environment (social-ecological systems) provide an appropriate unit of analysis. Second, the resilience approach deals with change in multilevel complex systems, and has stimulated much of the adaptive governance literature by addressing uncertainty and adaptation to unforeseen future changes. Third, there is a need to foster collaborative approaches to improve social and institutional learning, as for example in adaptive management, collaborative learning networks, and knowledge co-production. Collaborative learning is perhaps where further research, experimentation, and application might make a difference for operationalizing adaptive governance, with a focus on institutions, at all levels from local to international. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Governance for Sustainability)
Open AccessArticle Sustainability Experiments in the Agri-Food System: Uncovering the Factors of New Governance and Collaboration Success
Sustainability 2017, 9(6), 1027; doi:10.3390/su9061027
Received: 3 May 2017 / Revised: 2 June 2017 / Accepted: 9 June 2017 / Published: 15 June 2017
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (1747 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
In recent years, research, society and industry recognize the need to transform the agri-food system towards sustainability. Within this process, sustainability experiments play a crucial role in transforming the structure, culture and practices. In literature, much attention is given to new business models,
[...] Read more.
In recent years, research, society and industry recognize the need to transform the agri-food system towards sustainability. Within this process, sustainability experiments play a crucial role in transforming the structure, culture and practices. In literature, much attention is given to new business models, even if the transformation of conventional firms toward sustainability may offer opportunities to accelerate the transformation. Further acceleration could be achieved through collaboration of multiple actors across the agri-food system, but this calls for a systems approach. Therefore, we developed and applied a new sustainability experiment systems approach (SESA) consisting of an analytical framework that allows a reflective evaluation and cross-case analysis of multi-actor governance networks based on business and learning evaluation criteria. We performed a cross-case analysis of four agri-food sustainability experiments in Flanders to test and validate SESA. Hereby, the key factors of the success of collaboration and its performance were identified at the beginning of a sustainability experiment. Some of the key factors identified were risk sharing and the drivers to participate. We are convinced that these results may be used as an analytical tool for researchers, a tool to support and design new initiatives for policymakers, and a reflective tool for participating actors. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Governance for Sustainability)
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Open AccessArticle Beyond Regulation: Innovative Strategies for Governing Large Complex Systems
Sustainability 2017, 9(6), 938; doi:10.3390/su9060938
Received: 19 April 2017 / Revised: 19 April 2017 / Accepted: 25 May 2017 / Published: 2 June 2017
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (214 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
We have entered an era characterized by levels of complexity that are unprecedented in human experience. The hallmarks of complex systems are the growth of connectivity, the prominence of nonlinear patterns of change, the occurrence of bifurcations in contrast to oscillations, and frequent
[...] Read more.
We have entered an era characterized by levels of complexity that are unprecedented in human experience. The hallmarks of complex systems are the growth of connectivity, the prominence of nonlinear patterns of change, the occurrence of bifurcations in contrast to oscillations, and frequent surprises associated with emergent properties. There are good reasons to question the adequacy of the standard repertory of practices associated with regulatory strategies in efforts to fulfill needs for governance in complex systems. Whereas regulatory strategies feature the articulation of rules expected to remain in place indefinitely and emphasize efforts to maximize compliance with the rules, governing complex systems calls for a willingness to experiment with innovative practices in the face of uncertainty and a capacity to adapt existing practices easily to new circumstances. It is helpful in this connection to distinguish between Type I governance, which is a matter of devising supplementary practices to augment rather than to replace regulatory measures in managing volatile oscillations, and Type II governance, which is a matter of devising new governance strategies to address needs for governance arising during periods of transformation and in the settings that become the new normal following major state changes. There is no need to discard familiar regulatory strategies. Rather, the challenge is to devise innovative steering mechanisms to augment the existing toolkit to meet needs for governance in the 21st century. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Governance for Sustainability)
Open AccessArticle Causes for Adaptation: Access to Forests, Markets and Representation in Eastern Senegal
Sustainability 2017, 9(2), 311; doi:10.3390/su9020311
Received: 21 December 2016 / Accepted: 7 February 2017 / Published: 20 February 2017
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Abstract
Adaptation is a means of reducing vulnerability. So, understanding causes of vulnerability should help to achieve adaptation. Why, then, are people vulnerable? Why do expected dry spells turn into hunger? Why do mere droughts become disasters? This article shows some of the multiscale
[...] Read more.
Adaptation is a means of reducing vulnerability. So, understanding causes of vulnerability should help to achieve adaptation. Why, then, are people vulnerable? Why do expected dry spells turn into hunger? Why do mere droughts become disasters? This article shows some of the multiscale processes that make the lives of people in the forests of Eastern Senegal precarious; it outlines processes that reduce forest villagers’ access to resources, lucrative markets and political representation. These are the processes that place villagers at risk when exposed to stressors— climate or otherwise. In this case, the Forest Service applies double standards—favoring urban merchants while subordinating forest villagers—through the making, interpretation, implementation and circumvention of laws and regulations. The wealth of the poor is continuously expropriated by a well-adapted extractive apparatus, enriching urban merchants while leaving villagers incapacitated. These people may lack adaptive capacity or capability or assets or social protections, but those lacks have causes. “Adaptation” without identifying and addressing these root causes is palliative at best. Security requires emancipatory transformations. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Governance for Sustainability)

Review

Jump to: Research

Open AccessReview 5 Key Challenges and Solutions for Governing Complex Adaptive (Food) Systems
Sustainability 2017, 9(9), 1594; doi:10.3390/su9091594
Received: 26 July 2017 / Revised: 23 August 2017 / Accepted: 28 August 2017 / Published: 7 September 2017
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Abstract
There is increasing recognition in academic circles of the importance of adaptive governance for the sustainability of social-ecological systems, but little examination of specific implications for the 34% of land-use where human activities are pervasive but potentially commensurate with functioning ecosystems: agricultural production
[...] Read more.
There is increasing recognition in academic circles of the importance of adaptive governance for the sustainability of social-ecological systems, but little examination of specific implications for the 34% of land-use where human activities are pervasive but potentially commensurate with functioning ecosystems: agricultural production systems. In this paper, we argue for the need to view food systems and agro-ecosystems as multi-scalar complex adaptive systems and identify five key challenging characteristics of such systems: multi-causality; cumulative impacts; regime shifts; teleconnections and mismatch of scales. These characteristics are necessary features of multi-scalar adaptive systems, and apply equally to social and natural subsystems. We discuss the implications of these characteristics for agricultural production systems and consider how governance can rise to these challenges. We present five case studies that highlight these issues: pollinator declines; payments for ecosystem services; pest control and pesticide resistance; downstream aquatic systems in Tasman Bay, New Zealand; and riparian buffers in Puget Sound, USA. From these case studies we derive recommendations for managing agricultural systems, both specific and general. Ultimately, adaptive governance of agro-ecosystems will likely hinge upon three paradigm shifts: viewing farmers and ranchers not only as food producers but also as land and water managers; seeking not yield maximization but rather resilient management of food ecosystems; and critically, as it transcends the production-system literature, engaging broad audiences not only as consumers but also citizens. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Governance for Sustainability)
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