Quantcast
Business

15 Most Surprising Trends for 2017

By Mary Hoff

What should we be thinking about when we think about the future of biodiversity, conservation and the environment? An international team of experts in horizon scanning, science communication and conservation recently asked that question as participants in the eighth annual Horizon Scan of Emerging Issues for Global Conservation and Biological Diversity. The answers they came up, just published in the scientific journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution and summarized below, portend both risks and opportunities for species and ecosystems around the world.

"Our aim has been to focus attention and stimulate debate about these subjects, potentially leading to new research foci, policy developments or business innovations," the authors wrote in introducing their list of top trends to watch in 2017. "These responses should help facilitate better-informed forward-planning."

1. Altering Coral Bacteria

Around the world, coral reefs are bleaching and dying as ocean temperatures warm beyond those tolerated by bacteria that live in partnership with the corals. Scientists are eyeing the option of replacing bacteria forced out by heat with other strains more tolerant of the new temperatures—either naturally occurring or genetically engineered. Although the practice holds promise for rescuing or resurrecting damaged reefs, there are concerns about unintended consequences such as introduction of disease or disruption of ecosystems.

2. Underwater Robots Meet Invasive Species

If you think getting rid of invasive species on land is a challenge, you haven't tried doing it in the depths of the ocean. Robots that can crawl across the seafloor dispatching invaders with poisons or electric shock are being investigated as a potential tool for combating such species. The technology is now being tested to control crown-of-thorns starfish, which have devastated Great Barrier Reef corals in recent years and invasive lionfish, which are competing with native species in the Caribbean Sea.

3. Electronic Noses

The technology behind electronic sensors that detect odors has advanced markedly in recent years, leading biologists to ponder applications to conservation. Possibilities include using the devices to sniff out illegally traded wildlife at checkpoints along transportation routes and to detect the presence of DNA from rare species in the environment.

4. Blight of the Bumblebees

We tend to think of pollinating insects as our ecological friends, but in the wrong place nonnative bees can spell trouble instead by competing with native insects, promoting reproduction in nonnative plants and potentially spreading disease. And they're doing just that, thanks to people who transport them internationally for plant-pollination purposes. Out-of-place bumblebees are already spreading through New Zealand, Japan and southern South America, and there is concern they could do the same in Australia, Brazil, Uruguay, China, South Africa and Namibia.

5. Microbes Meet Agriculture

Select bacteria and fungi are emerging as potential agricultural allies for their ability to help kick back pests or stimulate growth in crops. As research advances in this area, questions are being raised about potential implications for nontarget species, ecosystems, soils and more.

Bumblebees imported to pollinate crops are a growing threat to native pollinators around the world. iStock

Next Page
Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Climate
Sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. NASA

Not Enough Ice to Drill the Arctic! Offshore Oil Drilling a 'Disaster Waiting to Happen'

Last month, the Trump administration approved the first offshore oil drilling development in federal Arctic waters, which environmentalists fear will ramp up carbon pollution that fuels climate change.

But here's the ultimate irony: Hilcorp Alaska's project—which involves building a 9-acre artificial drilling island in the shallow waters of the Beaufort Sea—has been delayed because of the effects of climate change, Alaska Public Media reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Westend61 / Getty Images

EcoWatch Gratitude Photo Contest: Submit Now!

EcoWatch is pleased to announce its first photo contest! Show us what in nature you are most thankful for this Thanksgiving. Whether you have a love for oceans, animals, or parks, we want to see your best photos that capture what you love about this planet.

Keep reading... Show less
Insights
Dominion Energy's headquarters in Richmond, Virginia. VCU CNS

Cash Buys Elections—and Continued Fossil Fuel Dominance

By Wenonah Hauter

Last week, the fossil fuel industry successfully squashed several local measures it didn't like—thanks to the more than $100 million it shelled out to oppose them.

Keep reading... Show less
Fracking
Rick Rappaport

World’s Largest Fracked-Gas-to-Methanol Refinery Must Be Stopped: Submit a Comment Today!

Tuesday, a report written by the company proposing the world's largest fracked-gas-to-methanol refinery was released by the Port of Kalama and Cowlitz County, Washington. The proposed fossil fuel refinery is controversial because of the impacts on both local residents' health and our climate. Despite the company's claim that the refinery could result in a climate benefit, the refinery would consume a stunning amount of fracked natural gas—one-third as much gas as the entire state of Washington.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Business
Drinkworks

How Green Is the New Keurig Cocktail Machine?

This week, Keurig and Anheuser-Busch made headlines with the launch of the Drinkworks Home Bar, a pod-based appliance that makes cocktails, brews and ciders at the push of a button.

Look, I get it. An instant, no-fuss Old Fashioned—which normally requires muddling sugar, water and bitters and mixing in many other ingredients—sounds great!

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
The Climate Reality Project

First Look: 24 Hours of Reality: Protect Our Planet, Protect Ourselves

In many places, the leaves have fallen and the first frosts have turned the air crisp. The days are getting shorter. Most birds are well on their way south, and the holidays are just around the corner. And in just a few weeks, on Dec. 3-4, we'll present our eighth annual global broadcast of 24 Hours of Reality.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
Student leaders behind the movement calling on the UN to highlight key data on imminent global collapse. Our Future Uncompromised

20,000+ Students to UN: Publicize Key Facts to Prevent Global Collapse

24,500 students representing every country in the EU have added their names to the list of young people fighting for a future for themselves and the earth.

The students, who organize under the banner of Our Future Uncompromised and attend the prestigious Schola Europaea network of international schools, are calling on the United Nations (UN) to "stop withholding" crucial scientific information that they say could help avert the duel catastrophes of resources depletion and climate change, the students announced Thursday in an email sent to EcoWatch.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Trump at Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington, West Virginia on Aug. 3, 2017. SAUL LOEB / AFP / Getty Images

Trump Team Plans 'Sideshow on Coal' at UN Climate Talks

No one really expects the coal-friendly Trump administration to take significant action on climate change, but this is just trolling.

A new exclusive from Reuters claims that the president's team will "set up a side-event promoting fossil fuels" at the global climate summit this December, aka COP 24, in Katowice, Poland.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!