Sustainability of the Belt and Road Initiative: Uncovering Frontier Issues


Alice Hughes, Amy Hinsley, Richard Griffiths, Angela Tritto
Thursday 14 May 2020 at 4:00 - 5:00 pm (Hong Kong time, GMT +8)
Facebook Live

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) represents the largest infrastructure and development project in human history, and presents risks and opportunities for ecosystems, economies, and communities. Some risks (habitat fragmentation, roadkill) are obvious. However, many of the BRI’s largest challenges for development and conservation are not obvious and require extensive consideration to identify. In this first BRI Horizon Scan, 14 researchers consulted approximately 250 people in their networks to propose key issues related to BRI projects and agendas. They then met and scored these issues based on impact and novelty, producing the final list of 11 frontier issues. These 11 issues may have large environmental and social impacts but are not yet recognised, and constitute important inputs for future research.

In this online seminar, four authors will explain the Horizon Scan and discuss the issues, namely: 

  1. Invisible Invasives: Incidental Spread of Fungi, Bacteria, and Viruses 
  2. Cementing Extinction 
  3. Coastal Ecosystems under Threat
  4. Regreening the Never Green: ‘Anti-desertification’ and ‘Restoration’ in Natural Ecosystems
  5. BRI and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Supporting and Stimulating a Market in Wildlife Trade
  6. Groundwater Pumping Threatening the Viability of Freshwater Ecosystems
  7. Polar/Arctic Silk Road
  8. The Environmental Consequences of Geopolitical Rivalry over Infrastructure Financing
  9. Willingness to Build Infrastructure in Existing Conflict Zones
  10. Harmonizing International and National Environmental Standards in BRI Foreign Investment Projects
  11. Securing the Inclusive Governance and Management of ‘Territories of Life’ and Recognising the Role of ‘Culture’ in Conservation of Biodiversity by Indigenous and Local Communities

The event will conclude with a discussion on China in shaping global environmental governance and the future. 


Joins us via Zoom at, or watch on our Facebook page (live-streaming) or YouTube channel (available two weeks after the event date).   

Please send any enquiries to

Slides: Hughes' (PDF. 34MB).  Hinsley's (PDF. 6.6MB).  Tritto's. (PDF, 665KB)


Hughes, A., Lechner, A., Chitov, A., Horstmann, A., Hinsley, A., Tritto, A., Chariton, A., Li, B., Wang, C., Ganapin, D., Simonov, E., Morton, K., Toktomushev, K., Foggin, M., Tan-Mullins, M., Orr, M., Griffiths, R., Nash, R., Brooks, T., Perkin, S., Glémet, R., Kim, M., Yu, D. (2020). Horizon Scan of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Trends in Ecology and Evolution. DOI:

About the Speakers

Alice Hughes (Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden)

Alice Hughes is PI of Landscape Ecology, Professor (Associate) at Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden at Yunnan, China.  She is a conservation biologist based in Asia. Alice holds board positions for around 7 ecological societies and 2 NGOS and works through these to build conservation capacity in upcoming conservationists and to try to implement conservation science and help guide conservation on regional scales. Her research aims to understand patterns of biodiversity and drivers of biodiversity change, with an aim to inform more rigorous & appropriate conservation. She and her team use a wide variety of approaches and tools for anything from understanding species biogeography, to developing monitoring tools or understanding interactions. She currently also has projects on threatened ecosystems (especially karst) to understand biodiversity patterns & develop effective conservation & management approaches.

Amy Hinsley (University of Oxford)

Amy Hinsley is Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Oxford.  Her research uses interdisciplinary methods to understand the complex interactions between the legal and illegal markets for bear bile in China, particularly how consumer behavior and demand influence these markets. Before joining Oxford in 2017 she worked at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre on projects related to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), and completed a PhD on consumer behavior and the use of the internet in the international wildlife trade, using a case study of orchids.  Connect with her over Twitter at @orchiddelirium . 

Richard Griffiths (Leiden University)

Prof. Richard Giffiths is Professor emeritus of Economic History International Studies at Leiden University and, currently, director of the New Silk Roads research project at the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS). Previously, Richard worked as a professor at the University of Manchester, the Free University Amsterdam and the European University Institute in Florence. His expertise lies in the field of European integration and in the critical analysis of the data employed in social science and economics analyses. He teaches a MOOC with Coursera entitled 'The Political Economy of Institutions and Development' and he is the author of Revitalising the Silk Road. China's Bet and Road in Context (2017) and The new Silk Road, Challenge and Response (2019). His book The Maritime Silk Road. China's Belt and Road at Sea is due in May 2020.

Angela Tritto (HKUST)

Angela Tritto (Ph.D., City University of Hong Kong), is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute of Emerging Market Studies, HKUST. She is currently working on three interrelated research projects on the Belt and Road Initiative in Southeast Asia. Her research interests include management of innovation, environmental policies and technologies, heritage management, and sustainable development. She recently published several works in collaboration with a team of international scholars on the sustainability of the Belt and Road Initiative. Her past publications examine environmental innovations and the role of institutions in the management of World Heritage Sites in China and Malaysia. 

To Attend the Event

The event will be held online only via Zoom as well as live broadcast on our Facebook page

To participate via Zoom, please obtain the meeting link here.  You will need to register before given the meeting link as part of our security measures.  Also see here for advices from the university's IT office on Zoom best practices for attendees.  

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Any further update about this event will be first posted here on this page.   Enquiry by email to iems_AT_ust_DOT_hk. 



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