In the globally significant Australian tropical rainforests, poor performance of community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) approaches mandated by national policy highlights the importance of the global search for better models. This paper reports on co-research to develop, apply and test the transferability and effectiveness of a new model and tools for CBNRM in biodiversity conservation. Adaptive co-management, designed with specific communities and natural resources, recognized as linked multi-scalar phenomena, is the new face of CBNRM. New tools used to achieve adaptive co-management include a collaborative focal species approach focused on the iconic southern cassowary, scenario analysis, science brokering partnerships, a collaborative habitat investment atlas and institutional brokering. An intermediate-complexity analytical framework was used to test the robustness of these tools and therefore likely transferability. The tools meet multiple relevant standards across three dimensions, namely empowering institutions and individuals, ongoing systematic scientific assessment and securing effective on-ground action. Evaluation of effectiveness using a performance criteria framework identified achievement of many social and environmental outcomes. Effective CBNRM requires multi-scale multi-actor collaborative design, not simply devolution to local-scale governance. Bridging/boundary organizations are important to facilitate the process. Further research into collaborative design of CBNRM structures, functions, tools and processes for biodiversity conservation is recommended.
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