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Trends Ecol Evol. 2009 Oct;24(10):523-7. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2009.04.008. Epub 2009 Aug 5.

The need for environmental horizon scanning.

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Conservation Science Group, Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge, CB2 3EJ, UK.


Policymakers and practitioners in most fields, including conservation and the environment, often make decisions based on insufficient evidence. One reason for this is that issues appear unexpectedly, when with hindsight, many of them were foreseeable. A solution to the problem of being insufficiently prepared is routine horizon scanning, which we describe as the systematic search for potential threats and opportunities that are currently poorly recognized. Researchers can then decide which issues might be most worthwhile to study. Practitioners can also use horizon scanning to ensure timely policy development and research procurement. Here, we suggest that horizon scanning is an underused tool that should become a standard element of environmental and conservation practice. We make recommendations for its incorporation into research, policy and practice. We argue that, as an ecological and conservation community, we are failing to provide timely advice owing to a weakness in identifying forthcoming issues. We outline possible horizon-scanning methods, and also make recommendations as to how horizon scanning could have a more central role in environmental and conservation practice.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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