Current policy interventions are having limited success in addressing the ongoing decline in global biodiversity. In part, this is attributable to insufficient attention being paid to the social and governance processes that drive decisions and can undermine their implementation. Scenario planning that draws on social–ecological systems (SES) analysis provides a useful means to systematically explore and anticipate future uncertainties regarding the interaction between humans and biodiversity outcomes. However, the effective application of SES models has been limited by the insufficient attention given to governance influences. Understanding the influence governance attributes have on the future trajectory of SES is likely to assist choice of effective interventions, as well as needs and opportunities for governance reform. In a case study in the Australian Alps, we explore the potential of joint SES and scenario analyses to identify how governance influences landscape-scale biodiversity outcomes. Novel aspects of our application of these methods were the specification of the focal system's governance attributes according to requirements for adaptive capacity, and constraining scenarios according to the current governance settings while varying key social and biophysical drivers. This approach allowed us to identify how current governance arrangements influence landscape-scale biodiversity outcomes, and establishes a baseline from which the potential benefits of governance reform can be assessed.