Emerging Signals of Change that Could Shape the Future of Forestry: A Horizon Scan

David N. Bengston, Lynne M. Westphal, Paul Adelson, Jason Crabtree, Michael J. Dockry, Andy Hines, George H. Kubik, Maria Romero, Zach Van Stanley, Nicole L. Zimmerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Foresight is essential for long-term planning and forward-looking decision-making in forestry, where planning horizons often span many decades. But generating foresight is challenging due to the increasing pace and complexity of change and growing uncertainty about the future. Most change that could affect or even disrupt forestry in the future originates outside of the field, such as social, technological, economic, and environmental changes. The Forest Futures Horizon Scanning project (Forest Horizons) aims to generate foresight by identifying early signals of change from outside forestry that professionals within the field may not be aware of or pay close attention to. This article draws on the database of signals of change uncovered in the Forest Horizons project and identifies fifteen key emerging changes that could help shape the long-term future of forestry. Study Implications: The long-term nature of forestry has compelled foresters to be forward-looking and plan many decades ahead. Horizon scanning is a tool that can enhance foresight in forestry by identifying emerging signals of change that could affect the field in the future. Fifteen wide-ranging early signals of change are highlighted in this article. Consideration of these emerging changes in long-term and strategic planning could help forestry decision makers prepare for change and avoid being blindsided. Horizon scanning is a useful approach to help generate essential foresight in an era of increasingly rapid, complex, and often surprising change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)152-158
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Forestry
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society of American Foresters.


  • emerging issues
  • external change
  • horizon scanning
  • signals of change
  • strategic foresight
  • wild cards


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