Horizon Scan Research Priorities Project

Park and protected areas managers need knowledge of the challenges and opportunities that may influence the stewardship and conservation of protected areas as they make decisions for the future. One methodology that is often used to identify knowledge gaps and emerging issues is the horizon scan.

Parks Canada and the Canadian Parks, Protected, and Conserved Areas Leadership Collective teamed up to undertake a horizon scan to inform the management of protected areas in Canada. This scan was conducted in close collaboration with partners, so that results obtained benefit all and support conservation planning and actions across the country.

Parks Canada will use the results of the horizon scan to inform its own research agenda. Using the Horizon Scan methodology (e.g., see Sutherland 2020 to learn more), the scan has identified  emerging issues with the potential to affect ecosystems and ecosystem services in protected areas across Canada.

Support for the Horizon Scan was provided by Parks Canada.

Scan Report

181 issues were received based on the Question: What are emerging, or horizon, issues that are currently not emphasized or being addressed, but are expected to have considerable impacts on ecosystems and ecosystem services delivered through protected area and area-based conservation organizations in Canada, over the next 5 to 10 years?

These issues are compiled into a report. An expert group has also prepared a manuscript of 15 most highly ranked issues after several rounds of scoring and a virtual workshop.

The Horizon Scan was also published in the open source journal Facets: 


Conservation Through Reconciliation Partnership

The Conservation Through Reconciliation Partnership (CRP) is advising Parks Canada to identify issues that are of importance to Parks and Protected areas in the country. In particular, the CRP is helping to ensure the Indigenous Circle of Expert (ICE) recommendations are considered and acted upon through the Parks Canada Research Agenda in the spirit of reconciliation.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Horizon scanning is a technique for detecting early signs of potentially important developments through a systematic examination of potential threats and opportunities.
  • It is not about predicting the future but is a way of investigating evidence of future trends.
  • Emerging issues are new issues being identified and not yet being addressed.
  • Horizon issues are issues that could potentially have a significant impact on ecosystems and species in the next 5 to 10 years.
  • For this project, the identified issues are expected to impact ecosystems and the services they provide, such as clean air and water.
  • Emerging issues do not need to be program related but should have the potential to impact ecosystem functions and services of protected areas in Canada.
  • For the purpose of this exercise, it should be possible to address issues via research questions.
  • Research questions should: (i) be relevant to protected areas and area-based conservation units in Canada; (ii) address an important existing or developing gap in knowledge base and/or program areas; (iii) focus on ecosystems and ecosystem services; (iv) be formulated as a research question (rather than general topic or priority area); (v) be answerable through a feasible scientific research design; (vi) be of a spatial and temporal scope that could be addressed by a research team.
  • The entire protected areas portfolio is included in this exercise, including federal, provincial, and territorial parks and protected areas, Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures (OECMs), managed by private, public, Indigenous or any other entity.
  • Parks Canada wants to identify emerging/horizon issues that could impact ecosystem conservation and management in Canada’s protected and conserved areas in the next 5 – 10 years.
  • In support of Canada’s commitment to protect 25% of its terrestrial lands and marine waters, the proposed scope encompasses all types of protected and conserved areas, rather than being limited to Parks Canada’s sites.
  • Accordingly, the proposed scope includes establishment, conservation for ecological integrity or ecologically sustainable use, as well as the provision of ecosystem services.
  • The horizon scan will represent an important source of input to Parks Canada’s research agenda.
  • Input is being requested from scientists, (ecologists, sociologists, biologists, geoscientists) natural resource managers, conservationists, land managers, students and professors.
  • Expert advice provided by individuals active in protected areas conservation and management will guide and validate the issues that are identified and included.
  • Participants who provide input will also be invited to rank the identified issues in the second phase of the process.
  • A report that will include all identified issues will be created and made available to protected area managers across the country.
  • A manuscript will be submitted by the expert group and will be made available on the Research Network webpage.
  • Results will be used by Parks Canada to inform its research agenda.

Questions or comments?