Strategic foresight: how planning for the unpredictable can improve environmental decision-making

Carly N. Cook, Sohail Inayatullah, Mark A. Burgman, William J. Sutherland, Brendan A. Wintle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

108 Citations (Scopus)


Advanced warning of potential new opportunities and threats related to biodiversity allows decision-makers to act strategically to maximize benefits or minimize costs. Strategic foresight explores possible futures, their consequences for decisions, and the actions that promote more desirable futures. Foresight tools, such as horizon scanning and scenario planning, are increasingly used by governments and business for long-term strategic planning and capacity building. These tools are now being applied in ecology, although generally not as part of a comprehensive foresight strategy. We highlight several ways foresight could play a more significant role in environmental decisions by: monitoring existing problems, highlighting emerging threats, identifying promising new opportunities, testing the resilience of policies, and defining a research agenda.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)531-541
Number of pages11
JournalTrends in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Alternative futures
  • Causal layered analysis
  • Conservation
  • Conservation policy
  • Decision-making
  • Environmental futures
  • Futures research
  • Futures studies
  • Strategic thinking


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