Horizon Scanning Reveals Issues of Conservation Concern for 2010

A team of individuals, including representatives of NGOs, academics, learned societies and professional horizon scanners has identified fifteen issues which could affect the conservation of biodiversity in the near future. The group, led by Professor Bill Sutherland of Cambridge University, and which included the BES Policy Officer, met in September this year to discuss a number of issues and shortlist those thought to not yet be on the radar for conservationists. Professor Sutherland intends that the exercise be run annually, in order to identify emerging issues in sufficient time to allow time to initiate research and develop policy and practical responses.

The paper defines horizon scanning as ‘the systematic search for incipient trends, opportunities and risks which may affect the probability of achieving management goals and objectives’. Over the course of 2009, those involved in the exercise collated a number of examples of novel threats and opportunities for biodiversity. These were then ranked by the group in advance of the September meeting, to prepare a shortlist which was then debated at the meeting itself.

Issues outlined in the paper include ‘synthetic meat’; using techniques developed for bioengineering medical tissue to grow synthetic meat in the laboratory. Should synthetic meat become commonplace and livestock production move away from field to factory, this could result in a redution in greenhouse gases from agriculture but also consequences for vegetation dependent on livestock grazing. The growth in mobile-sensing technology is also highlighted, due to the opportunities that the growth of ‘apps’, or applications, for mobile phones could open for a wide range of individuals to engage with conservation, for species recognition and recording of information about species. Other issues highilighted include ‘stratospheric aerosols’, ‘deoxygenation of the oceans’ and ‘large-scale international land acquisitions.’

The list of fifteen issues is not meant to be exhaustive and nor are the issues ranked in order of importance. The list is aimed at stimulating discussion and debate within the conservation and policy communities. Through leading this exercise, Professor Sutherland hopes to encourage conservation professionals to give greater attention to speculative or little-known issues, rather than focusing, as traditionally, on issues of well-recognised importance. Conservation issues may be better accomodated in policy and management if identified early.

Sutherland, W.J. et al. A horizon scan of global conservation issues for 2010. TREE (Published online, 24 November 2009)