Technology for Preserving Biodiversity
Of the nine critical planetary boundaries that keep Earth’s environment stable and resilient enough to support life, the closest to being breached is biodiversity. Hundreds of thousands of species are at risk of extinction, which endangers the systems that meet humanity’s most basic needs.
Technology can help reduce the strain on ecosystems so our pursuit of a higher global standard of living doesn’t destroy them.
The business case for biodiversity
We can generate an estimated US$10.1 trillion in business opportunities each year and create 395 million new jobs by 2030 – all while showing customers that we share their environmental concerns.
Teamwork for the planet
Scientists are collaborating to support biodiversity on a global scale by:
- Developing autonomous devices to catalogue and publicize the irreplaceable value of ecosystems before they vanish
- Creating handheld DNA scanners for inspecting organic products and facial recognition software for chimpanzees to prevent poaching and illegal trade of protected species
- Applying machine learning to crowdsourced environmental data to report on animal life, such as suggesting ways to mitigate habitat loss
Targeting specific issues
Technology can help biodiversity preservation in ways that humans can’t:
- A slow-moving, solar-powered robot can monitor environmental data over months or years without disturbing wildlife.
- A microelectronic prosthesis can turn jellyfish into living sensors to collect real-time data on ocean health.
- Microscopic radio transmitters and radar-reflecting tags track invasive insects to their nests and destroy their colonies.
- An “Internet of wild things” that uses Internet of Things (IoT) technologies can monitor habitat changes and stop animal poaching.
Repairing broken ecosystems
Given enough time and protection from human incursion, even harmed ecosystems like the Chernobyl region can begin to recover. Technology can accelerate the healing:
- Phytoextraction uses trees to absorb metals in sewage, transforming contaminated sludge into fertilizer while creating a forest that can be harvested to recover the metals.
- Sensors, drones, and repurposed smartphones create early warning systems to detect signs of unwanted human presence in protected areas.
- Autonomous robots could patrol and block access to areas that humans cannot or should not enter.
We have the opportunity to apply technological innovation to conserving and restoring biodiversity for the benefit of the whole planet.