Reintroduction of wolves (Canis lupus) to Yellowstone National Park (after a 75-year absence) led to a cascade of beneficial ecosystem changes. (NPS)
Intended Consequences Initiative
EXPANDING THE NARRATIVE FOR CONSERVATION
Currently, the ecological stakes are high and biodiversity is in peril, but fear of unintended consequences still paralyzes conservation innovation. This need not be the case. Over the last 140 years, conservationists in the U.S. have succeeded in using translocation strategies to improve ecosystem quality (Novak et al, submitted). Additionally, synthetic biology and genetic tools offer new solutions to many intractable problems.
This means it is possible to design for positive, Intended Consequences. Implementing more traditional conservation methods along with genetics-based advancements has the potential to stave off or reverse catastrophic outcomes, such as climate-led extinctions. Conservation still has a long way to go. But a responsible and collaborative framework will facilitate changes in practice and the use of modern technologies to achieve Intended Consequences and rebuild the health of our planet. Revive & Restore is building momentum for this emerging approach to conservation.
GOALS OF THE INITIATIVE
Building A Framework
To start building a framework that responsibly supports conservation innovation, Revive & Restore hosted the Intended Consequences Workshop in June 2020. We convened 57 practitioners, social scientists, decision-makers, and thought leaders in conservation biology representing academia, governmental agencies, NGOs, and philanthropic organizations. The conversations and consensus-building that occurred led us to the goals above, and our plans for moving this initiative forward. Learn more about the workshop, here.
A unified opinion emerged from those groundbreaking workshop conversations. Participants agreed that next-generation biotechnologies have the potential to improve the health of our ecosystems profoundly and that it is time to use them. To recruit participation and build a wider, more diverse community, three main resources are in development:
- Statement—A consensus-building creed, drafted by a majority of workshop participants with the intent of catalyzing a new era in conservation.
- Intended Consequences special issue of Conservation Science and Practice—A variety of relevant articles are in process, with early 2021 publication anticipated.
- Code of Practice for Genetic Interventions—A singular, yet evolving code to ensure safe and transparent genomic intervention planning and implementation and to help funders feel confident in supporting this leading edge of conservation.
To achieve our goals of expanding the narrative for conservation and increasing inclusivity, each of these documents will be widely shared with the public, conservation practitioners, decision-makers, and stakeholders upon publication. We anticipate and welcome the many conversations that are sure to follow.