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

Expanding The Narrative

We want to encourage language and outreach that will help expand the narrative. A special issue of Conservation Science and Practice lays the groundwork for communicating about Intended Consequences and exploring how scholars and practitioners can think through the tools, the risk analysis, and the strategies that will generate success.

Increasing Inclusivity

As we embrace a wider diversity of available technologies, we must also include a wider diversity of stakeholders. Yet conservation has historically failed to work within a framework of cultural inclusivity. We will push for a more inclusive process within this initiative as well as within the practice of conservation as a whole.

Developing a Code of Practice

A Code of Practice for Genetic Intervention will help developers confidently apply genetic tools to conservation by carrying over and adapting the due diligence from biotechnology research and adoption in other scientific fields. We hope that the code will standardize efforts, enable open discourse, and facilitate decision making.

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.

Moving Forward

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 PracticeA 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.