Horizon scanning is an important tool in planning at every level from corporates to national governments. Our Programme Manager for Costal Wetlands Femke Tonneijck has been involved in conservation’s horizon scan for five years now. From four continents, two dozen experts converge on Cambridge to contribute their knowledge. Polled from their networks they bring a diverse range of below-the-radar topics which might have a big impact–positive or negative–on nature in 2018. They assess the candidate issues through a scientific process, to arrive at 15 emerging but under-reported issues that policy makers need to be aware of in 2018.
One of the 15 topics particularly familiar to us is the underestimation of soil carbon emissions. Most of the carbon held away from the atmosphere is in soils—including the peatlands and coastal mudflats we know so well. As those soils are warmed by climate change, the carbon can be released—but being able to predict just how much is released is still difficult, especially as warmth may reach lower down into the soil than before. Worst case scenario: more carbon being released than current climate change models expect, meaning even more extreme climate change than the world is preparing for. Our output on soil carbon introduces what countries can do.
Beyond this, about half the topics in the horizon scan will immediately pique the interest of people involved in wetlands: vitamin deficiencies in fish and birds; gene-editing to eradicate pests; increasing plant salt tolerance; analysing social media for trends; climate change on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau; and China’s belt and road initiative. The UK science funding body NERC has summarised the list or you can read the full academic paper.