A horizon scan of global biological conservation issues for 2024

December 18, 2023 | Trends in Ecology & Evolution 

Introduction: Horizon scanning, a method aimed at identifying emerging threats and opportunities ahead of time, has become essential in conservation efforts. An global research consortium led by Cambridge University in UK has conducted annual horizon scan of global biological conservation since 2009 to pinpoint key issues before their full impacts are realized. 

Key findings: For the 2024 horizon scan, the recurring focus is on technologies that mitigate human impact on the environment, particularly in food production and consumption. For instance, halving global meat and dairy consumption by 2050 could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and free up millions of hectares of land for restoration efforts. Such actions align with global biodiversity goals. Other relevant technologies identified include decarbonized ammonia production, food and animal feed from autotrophic hydrogen-oxidising bacteria, acceleration of light-free artificial photosynthesis with indoor agriculture, extensive adoption of carbon mineralisation techniques, removal of carbon dioxide from the ocean, etc.

Moreover, innovations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from industrial and energy sectors are also under scrutiny. Despite rising costs and insufficient policies to drive demand and investment, there are promising developments, notably in low-emission hydrogen production. China stands out as a leader in this regard, with substantial investments and infrastructure projects underway.

However, the success of these initiatives hinges on various factors, including behavioral change approaches, market dynamics, and government policies. While the potential benefits are significant, realizing them requires concerted efforts from stakeholders across sectors to implement and support sustainable solutions.

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Fig. | Process for identifying and selecting issues for horizon scan 2024.