Environmental problems are often complex and it is widely recognized that they cannot be satisfactorily addressed by single disciplines. The review of forest cover change studies points to the need to carry out research integrating economic, political, social and environmental aspects. Existing interdisciplinary study areas, namely ecological economics, political ecology, sustainability science and Earth system governance do not yet fully integrate all the required aspects. This paper points out that the establishment of greater synergies between those study areas would be beneficial in developing the broader study area of environmental governance. A definition of environmental governance as a subject of study is developed. Lack of an all encompassing theory of environmental governance is highlighted, while the improbability of such a theory is acknowledged. In relation to normative work, the refinement of principles of good environmental governance could support the design and prioritization of policies. Empirical research needs to include the testing of hypotheses arising from theoretical developments, assessment of policy uptake and new exploratory research. Methodologically, environmental governance might start from an interdisciplinary approach followed by further integration leading to a transdisciplinary study area that uses a mixed methods research approach.