What is Rewilding?

Oxford English Dictionary:

To return (land) to a wilder and more natural state.

Used esp. with reference to the reintroduction of (large) mammals of or similar to species that were exterminated locally at some earlier period.


Wikipedia:

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Rewilding is large-scale conservation aimed at restoring and protecting natural processes and core wilderness areas, providing connectivity between such areas, and protecting or reintroducing apex predators and keystone species. Rewilding projects may require ecological restoration or wilderness engineering, particularly to restore connectivity between fragmented protected areas, and reintroduction of predators where extirpated.


Rewilding Europe:

Working Definition: Rewilding ensures natural processes and wild species to play a much more prominent role in the land- and seascapes, meaning that after initial support, nature is allowed to take more care of itself. Rewilding helps landscapes become wilder, whilst also providing opportunities for modern society to reconnect with such wilder places for the benefit of all life.

“We have deliberately chosen to call this a ‘working definition,” says Wouter Helmer, Rewilding Director of Rewilding Europe. “It means that while developing our initiative further, we will learn more and that will help us to refine it as we go, to a point where we feel satisfied and see others adopting this definition – which in fact represents an additional approach to conservation.”


Rewilding Britain:

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Rewilding is

  • allowing nature to look after itself
  • helping people to thrive alongside wildlife
  • securing the good things that nature provides – clean air and water, carbon storage, flood control, amazing experiences

Rewilding isn’t an alternative to farming. On the contrary, rewilding can be farming’s greatest ally. Rewilding helps restore nutrients to the soil, provides for pollinating insects, purifies water, reduces flood risk and helps resist droughts. It’s about helping nature, and that can help all of us.

Rewilding is ecological restoration and a little bit more. It’s a journey as much as a destination. It’s about seeing things differently, and taking a new approach to nature and our place in the midst of it.


Rewilding Australia:

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Rewilding Australia is dedicated to improving the long term outcomes for Australia’s ecosystems by:

  • Returning Australia’s carnivorous marsupials – our quolls and devils, to the landscapes inhabited for millennia;
  • Improving feral predator management strategies for foxes and feral cats by advocating investment in viral, immunocontraceptive, and other novel controls to reduce the reliance on baiting and shooting; and
  • Linking researchers with practical wildlife reintroduction projects that deliver positive ecosystem outcomes.

Why we’re focused on our carnivore marsupial species? Rewilding Australia’s objectives are focused less about restoring exactly what was there, but rather trying to improve ecosystem resilience by restoring species that evolved within the ecosystem and provided a high level of ecosystem function in terms of their role in regulating other species.


The UK Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST):

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There is no single definition of rewilding, but it generally refers to reinstating natural processes that would have occurred in the absence of human activity. In the long term, self regulating natural processes may reduce the need for human management, but in some circumstances human interventions may be needed to kick-start natural processes, such as tree planting, drainage blocking and reintroducing “keystone species” like beavers.  In the long term, self-regulating natural processes may reduce the need for human management. Rewilding can have unpredictable outcomes, but it may also represent a cost-effective way to provide ecosystem services (benefits provided by natural processes) such as flood prevention. Rewilding might help to reduce or offset negative impacts of intensive agriculture including: soil degradation; greenhousegas emissions; water pollution; insect pollinator declines and a reduction in biodiversity (the variety of living things).


Michael Soulé and Reed Noss:

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We recognize three independent features that characterize contemporary rewilding:

  • Large, strictly protected, core reserves (the wild)
  • Connectivity
  • Keystone species

In simplified shorthand, these have been referred to as the three C’s: Cores, Corridors, and Carnivores (Soulé, in prep.). A large scientific literature supports the need for big, interconnected reserves (Frankel and Soulé 1981, Soulé 1986, Noss and Cooperrider 1994, Noss and Csuti 1997). Keystone species are those whose influence on ecosystem function and diversity are disproportionate to their numerical abundance (Paine 1980, Gilbert 1986, Terborgh 1988, Mills et al. 1993, Power et al. 1996). (By definition, species that are typically abundant or dominant, such as fig trees, salmon, coral, and social insects including termites and ants, though often critical interactors, are not classified as keystone species, even though the effects are similar when they are greatly diminished in abundance.) The critical role of keystone species is gaining acceptance (Terborgh et al. 1999). Conservatively, though, the role of keystones might still be categorized as a hypothesis, its validity depending on the ecological context and the degree to which large carnivores and herbivores persist in the particular ecosystem. In any case, the keystone species hypothesis is central to the rewilding argument.

Keystone species enrich ecosystem function in unique and significant ways. Although all species interact, the interactions of some species are more profound and far-reaching than others, such that their elimination from an ecosystem often triggers cascades of direct and indirect changes on more than a single trophic level, leading eventually to losses of habitats and extirpation of other species in the food web. “Keystone species” is an inelegant but convenient way to refer to these strong interactors (Mills et al. 1993). Top carnivores are often keystones, but so are species that provide critical resources or that transform landscapes or waterscapes, such as sea otters, beavers, prairie dogs, elephants, gopher tortoises, and cavity-excavating birds. In North America it is often the large carnivores that are missing or severely depleted.

Three major scientific arguments constitute the rewilding argument and justify the emphasis on large predators. First, the structure resilience, and diversity of ecosystems is often maintained by “top-down” ecological (trophic) interactions that are initiated by top predators (Terborgh 1998, Terborgh et al. 1999). Second, wide-ranging predators usually require large cores of protected landscape for secure foraging, seasonal movement, and other needs; they justify bigness. Third, connectivity is also required because core reserves are typically not large enough in most regions; they must be linked to insure long-term viability of wide-ranging species. (Note, however, that “frontier” regions like Canada, north of the 50th parallel, are exceptions because of very low human population density.) In addition to large predators, migratory species such as caribou and anadromous fishes also justify connectivity in a system of nature reserves. In short, the rewilding argument posits that large predators are often instrumental in maintaining the integrity of ecosystems; in turn, the large predators require extensive space and connectivity.


George Monbiot:

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The rewilding of natural ecosystems that fascinates me is not an attempt to restore them to any prior state, but to permit ecological processes to resume. In countries such as my own, the conservation movement, while well intentioned, has sought to freeze living systems in time. It attempts to prevent animals and plants from either leaving or – if they do not live their already – entering. It seeks to manage nature as if tending a garden. Many of the ecosystems, such as heath and moorland, blanket bog and rough grass, that it tries to preserve are dominated by the low, scrubby vegetation which remains after forests have been repeatedly cleared and burnt. This vegetation is cherished by wildlife groups, which prevent it from reverting to woodland through intensive grazing by sheep, cattle and horses. It is as if the conservationists in the Amazon had decided to protect the cattle ranches, rather than the rainforest.

Rewilding recognizes that nature consists not just of species but also of their ever-shifting relationships with each other and with the physical environment. It understands that to keep an ecosystem in a state of arrested development, to preserve it as if it were a jar of pickles, is to protect something which bears little relationship to the natural world. This perspective has been influenced by some of the most arresting scientific developments of recent times.

Over the past few decades, ecologists have discovered the existence of widespread trophic cascades. These are processes caused by animals at the top of the food chain, which tumble all the way to the bottom. Predators and large herbivores can transform the places in which they live. In some cases they have changed not only the ecosystem but also the nature of the soil, the behaviour of rivers, the chemistry of the oceans and even the composition of the atmosphere. These findings suggests that the natural world is composed of even more fascinating and complex systems than we had imagined. They alter our understandings of how ecosystems function and present a radical challenge to some models of conservation. They make a powerful case for the reintroduction of large predators and other missing species.

Rewilding, to me, is about resisting the urge to control nature and allowing it to find its own way. It involves reintroducing absent plants and animals (and in a few cases culling exotic species which cannot be contained by native wildlife), pulling down the fences, blocking the drainage ditches, but otherwise stepping back. At sea, it means excluding commercial fishing and other forms of exploitation. The ecosystems what results are not described as wilderness, but as self-willed: governed not by human management but by their own processes. Rewilding has no end points, no views about what a ‘right’ ecosystem or a ‘right’ assemblage of species looks like. It does not strive to produce a heath, a meadow, a rainforest, a kelp garden or a coral reef. It lets nature decide.

The ecosystems that will emerge, in our changed climates, on our depleted soils, will not be the same as those which prevailed in the past. The way they evolve cannot be predicted, which is one of the reasons why this project enthralls. While conservation often looks to the past, rewilding of this kind looks to the future.

The rewilding of both land and sea could produce ecosystems, even in such depleted regions as Britain and northern Europe, as profuse and captivating as those that people now travel halfway around the world to see. One of my hopes is that it makes magnificent wildlife accessible to everyone.

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Some people see rewilding as a human retreat from nature; I see it as a re-involvement. I would like to see the reintroduction into the wild not only of wolves, lynx, wolverines, beavers, boar, moose, bison and – perhaps one day in the distance future – elephants and other species, but also of human beings. In other words, I see rewilding as an enhanced opportunity for people to engage with and delight in the natural world.

Perhaps most importantly, it offers hope. While rewilding should not become a substitute for protecting threatened places and species, the story it tells is that ecological change need not always proceed in the same direction. Environmentalism in the twentieth century foresaw a silent spring, in which the further degradation of the biosphere seemed inevitable. Rewilding offers the hope of a raucous summer, in which, in some parts of the world at least, destructive processes are thrown into reverse.

Nevertheless, like all visions, rewilding must be constantly questioned and challenged. It should happen only with the consent and enthusiasm of those who work on the land. It must never be used as an instrument of expropriation or dispossession. One of the chapters in this book describes some of the forced rewildings that have taken place around the world, and the human tragedies they have caused. Rewilding, paradoxically, should take place for the benefit of people, to enhance the world in which we live, and not for the sake of an abstraction we call Nature.


Caroline Fraser:

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Proposing conservation and ecological restoration on a scale previously unimagined, rewilding has become a principal method for designing, connecting, and restoring protected areas – the ultimate weapon in the fight against fragmentation.

Michael Soulé and a colleague, Reed Noss, formulated the essence of the new discipline in a 1998 paper, “Rewilding and Biodiversity: Complementary Goals for Continental Conservation.” In it, they boiled the requirements down to three words: “Cores, Corridors, and Carnivores.” Core protected areas had long been a feature of conservation design, but Soulé and Noss described national parks and wildlife refuges as only the beginning, the kernels from which larger, mightier protected areas must grow. Cores, they argued, must be continental in scale, preserving entire ecosystems: mountain forests, grasslands, tundra, savannah. Corridors were necessary to reestablish links between cores, because isolation and fragmentation of wilderness areas erode biodiversity: They enabled wildlife to migrate and disperse. And carnivores were crucial to maintaining the regulatory mechanisms keeping ecosystems healthy, harking back to those chaparral canyons. Because large carnivores regulate other predators and prey, exercising an influence on the ecosystem far out of proportion to their numbers, their protection and reintroduction is crucial. Because predators need large areas to survive, “they justify bigness.”

Over time, the definition has been broadened and refined by a host of experts. Cores are to be expanded and strictly protected, and their natural fire and flood regimes restored, wherever possible. Corridors are only one type of connectivity, which may take forms other than simple linear strips of land, including patches, or stepping stones, of habitat. Both cores and corridors may require restoration of degraded habitat to achieve large-scale connectivity; carnivores may need to be reintroduced. The category of carnivores has now been joined by “keystone species,” creatures that interact so strongly with the environment that they wield an outsized influence. The damming of beavers – altering the course of streams, opening meadows within forests, and creating pond ecosystems – elevates them to a keystone species. The grazing and browsing of elephants, who act as forest engineers, pushing over trees and keeping vast grasslands like the Serengeti open, makes them keystones.

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Restoration is the fourth major incarnation of rewilding, but it may become the dominant one, simply because we have already destroyed so much. Indeed, many other rewilding methods incorporate it. Along the European Green Belt, biologists are coaxing wet meadows and frog ponds from the former Death Zone; in the northern rangelands of Kenya, the Samburu are restoring grasslands; in Nepal, the Tharu people are regrowing forests.

But while suffused with hope, these endeavors have also provoked a host of quetions. What does it mean to restore a landscape or an ecosystem? Restore it to what? To some prior era of primeval perfection? And once something has been restored, like the Wisconsin horse pasture, how do you keep it that way?


Chris Packham:

Rewilding is taking areas of land, and trying to bring them back into a more natural ecosystem. Because every square metre of the UK has been modified by our species, every square metre, there is nothing. And I think in many people’s minds we have an idealised view of our landscape which is not as it should be. We’ve much modified that landscape. We’ve got it to the point whereby it’s failing in terms of being able to support the life that should be living there.

So rewilding is an idea that we take parts of it, very selectively, very carefully, and we allow those to gradually develop into a far more natural landscape. Now for that to last, and for it to work, we need all the species that we should have there. Because only through that will it actually function. And that’s why we get the idea of reintroducing species. The big things sometimes which are missing.

But we mustn’t focus just on the big things. A lot of rewilding need to be done quite literally at ground level, with the small things. Because ultimately, in terms of ecology, you can’t have the big without the small. There’s a great drive to put the cherry on the cake – to put the wolves back in, to put the lynx back in, the bison back in. But what’s the point of a cherry on a stale cake? It’s not going to work.

So I think we’ve got to start at the bottom, and we’ve got to make sure that we have environments which are healthy enough at that level before we think about bringing these other animals back. Now in some places we’re not far off that, so we shouldn’t have to wait too long to bring these things back. But if you said to me ‘I want you to rewild these arable fields around here,’ well then it’s going to be a long time before I can say, ‘Well we can put a lynx back into that environment.’

It’s not a fast fix, it’s an interesting one, but it is one that I have a tremendous confidence in that it will be the answer to addressing the loss of biodiversity, because our current models of conservation aren’t working.


Paul Jepson and Frans Schepers:

Rewilding is a multifaceted concept with three broad dimensions that interact with each other: 1) restoring and giving space to natural processes, 2) reconnecting wild(er) nature with the modern economy, and 3) responding to and shaping cosmopolitan perceptions of nature conservation among European society. The following principles are coming to characterise and guide rewilding as a distinct approach to conservation.

  1. Restoring natural processes and ecological dynamics – both abiotic such as river flows, and biotic such as the ecological web and food-chain – through reassembling lost guilds of animals in dynamic landscapes.
  2. A gradated and situated approach, where the goal is to move up a scale of wildness within the constraints of what is possible, and interacting with local cultural identities.
  3. Taking inspiration from the past but not replicating it. Developing new natural heritage and value that evokes the past but shapes the future.
  4. Creating self-sustaining, resiliant ecosystems (including re-connecting habitats and species populations within the wider landscapes) that provide resilience to external threats and pressures, including the impact of climate change (adaptation).
  5. Working towards the ideal of passive management, where once restored, we step back and allow dynamic natural processes to shape conservation outcomes.
  6. Creating new natural assets that connect with modern society and economy and promote innovation, enterprise and investment in and around natural areas, leading to new nature-inspired economies.
  7. Reconnecting policy with popular conservation sentiment and a recognition that conservation is a culturally dynamic as well as a scientific and technical pursuit.

Trees for Life:

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Reintroducing missing large carnivores to control herbivore numbers is definitely an important part of rewilding, but it is much more than just that. Nowadays, the definition has come to encompass the whole process of returning ecosystems to a state of ecological health and dynamic balance, making them self-sustaining, without the need for ongoing human management.


Keith Kirby:

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  • Rewilding is not about trying to restoring the British landscape to what it was like before Neolithic farmers started to clear forests: it is about reducing human intervention in some areas, preferably in a planned way, so that natural environmental processes will have more scope to shape the composition and structure of such landscapes. The result should be a more resilient and sustainable form of land use that is also richer in wildlife.
  • The past provides ideas as to how rewilding might be done and how future landscapes might develop, but these new landscapes will inevitably be different because we are starting with different conditions.
  • Rewilding is not an appropriate conservation strategy everywhere: it should be seen as complementary to existing approaches that target the maintenance of particular habitats and species.
  • Rewilding has the potential to be a more cost-effective way of managing large areas for conservation, but also delivering other benefits such as improved flood management, soil conservation, carbon sequestration and increased tourism/recreation income in particular areas. It usually however involves some management costs, particularly in the early stages of a project.
  • The existing evidence justifies its application in a series of areas to better define the levels of benefit and costs involved. These should be monitored over a 5-10 year period in ways that will allow a comparison with alternative agri-environment schemes.
  • Rewilding is an emotive and potentially controversial subject. However there are landowners who are interested in moving at least some way down this path and I believe that the public would be willing to support such schemes.

Sue Hartley:

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“In our evidence we did describe [rewilding] as a contested term, because for example one paper in the scientific literature said there’d been six different definitions of rewilding in eight years. But I think it’s important to emphasise that this isn’t unusual for new scientific disciplines, and as new terms come into ecology there’s a lot of debate and discussion, but that shouldn’t put us off. That’s a good part of the scientific process, that there’s rigorous consideration of what rewilding means.

It can mean different things to different people in different places – rewilding might be very different if you’re thinking about the megafauna of the US compared to some of the UK landscapes, and that’s entirely reasonably. But I think it’s also fair to say that a consensus is emerging in that it does refer to a range of techniques and approaches that seek to restore natural processes and funtions from ecosystems that have been lost, and to do that with a long-term goal of reduced human intervention.”


Richard Brazier:

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“My take on this is that it’s about the extensification of land use. It is a management process to manage the land, or part of a landscape differently, but towards a more natural structure with more natural function and processes, to deliver these multiple benefits that we know we need.”


Dolly Jørgensen:

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The term ‘rewilding’ sounds as if it should have a straightforward meaning ‘to make wild again’. But in truth the term has a complex history and a host of meanings have been ascribed to it. Rewilding as a specific scientific term has its beginnings as a reference to the Wildlands Project, which was founded in 1991 and aimed to create North American core wilderness areas without human activity that would be connected by corridors. Words, however, don’t stand still—they change over time and take on new meanings, while sometimes simultaneously retaining the older sense. Employing Foucault’s idea of historical genealogy, this article examines how the term rewilding was historically adopted and modified in ecological scientific discourse over the last two decades. This investigation probes what and, by extension, when and where, rewilding refers to as it has moved into various geographies across the globe. It then examines how the term has moved outside of science and been adopted by environmental activists as a plastic word. Taken as a whole, rewilding discourse seeks to erase human history and involvement with the land and flora and fauna. Such an attempted split between nature and culture may prove unproductive and even harmful. A more inclusive rewilding is a preferable strategy.

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Dr Mark Fisher:

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I contacted the Environmental Audit Committee to seek clarification of the meaning of the unfamiliar term managed rewilding. I did not receive a reply. A host of meanings have been ascribed to rewilding, stretching it to the point where it lacks definitional precision. This has led, in particular, to a blurring of the distinction between the grazing of domestic livestock and rewilding, such as the increased use of Konik horses in natural grazing. Used as domestic surrogates for the extinct wild horse, these horses are often described as wild even though they are actively managed (supplemental feeding, population regulation); they are restricted behind fences; and there is an absence of natural predation. Europe has many populations of horses kept under free-ranging conditions that are rarely called wild, despite being exposed to stronger environmental pressures, including predation, and having far greater freedom of movement. The blurring comes from this controlled grazing to maintain cultural landscapes being simultaneously called a natural process. In the same vein, it cannot be argued that extensification from a reduction of domestic grazing (see above) is evidence of a commitment to rewilding, as its aim is still in maintaining a biocultural landscape.

The aim of ecological restoration is to achieve a state of spontaneous perpetuation, a self-replicating population of reinstated species in a natural community. After substantial progress to that state for the natural vegetation of a location, the restoration of native herbivory can be considered, and what natural mechanisms of restraint there must be on that herbivory. It is the much longer timescale for tree establishment and its seed production compared to the life cycle of mammals that confirms the need for the removal of domestic herbivory in ecological restoration. There will, in any case, be a likely early resurgence in small herbivorous mammals (such as field voles) as has been observed in the spontaneous regeneration of moorland vegetation of South House Moor freed from grazing, and which has attracted predatory birds (such as the short-eared owl) so that trophic processes have reinstated. Protection of trees through the use of vole guards was required at Carrifran from a resurgence of those mammals. In the medium term, tree establishment and regeneration often have to be protected from larger herbivores, such as deer. Thus Carrifran Li and Coire Dhorrcail, Creag Meagaidh NNR and Dundreggan operate a policy of culling deer to reduce their inhibition of the growth of planted trees and of natural tree regeneration.

Deer culling to allowed levels at Dundreggan is considered insufficient on its own to reduce browsing pressure, and so a process of hazing deer during spring is starting whereby volunteers will take regular walks through and around the woodland, making noise and creating disturbance. This mimics the behaviourally mediated effects of large predators on their prey, and which is a missing element from a culling program, as it is from our predator-free landscapes. This presages discussion of the reinstatement of the large carnivores that are our former native species, as it does identification of large areas where ecological restoration and this reinstatement of the large carnivores can take place. The Northumberland National Park Management Plan noted that the possibilities for wilderness re-creation were likely to be opportunistic and dependent on large-scale changes in land-use or land ownership, but that communities or landowners may bring forward such proposals themselves. However, the evident gains in diversity from the returning wild nature that has been seen in all the examples of restoration given above must be given permanency and protection. Outside of land held in beneficial ownership where there is a de facto inalienability and a commitment to that permanency, it will be publicly owned land where an increasing public aspiration for wild land will be realised. This argues for a national system of publicly owned and protected wild land, as is the case in most of Europe.

See Also: Self-willed land – the rewilding of open spaces in the UK


The Wildlife Trusts:

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From Some thoughts on ‘rewilding’:

Many will feel kinship with Monbiot’s love of the wild and would agree that rewilding is an extremely attractive proposition. Indeed, encouraging nature to flourish and working to restore degraded wild places is why The Wildlife Trusts exist. At sea, we have been vocal in campaigning for Marine Conservation Zones, protected areas which would allow our seas to recover and be ‘rewilded’.

Humans have had an impact on our landscape in Britain for at least 7000 years. You only have to read the new State of Nature report, compiled by the RSPB, The Wildlife Trusts and many other NGOs to understand that we live on a highly-developed island where nature and wilderness struggles to survive. For a long time, people, for better or worse, have been part of the ecology of our landscape. The Wildlife Trusts are working hard to repair the damage that has been done so that nature can recover, but, even if we are aiming to restore natural processes and re-establish wildness where we can, there are still places where retaining some special habitats and the wildlife they support requires some human intervention.

Around half of our terrestrial species live in open habitats which require some sort of natural disturbance (or management intervention by humans) to exist – and which ultimately would be at risk of extinction with no type of management at all. With humans already culpable for such great losses of species and habitats we have to ask ourselves – with the ability to save and restore wildlife – have we reached the position where are we ready to let go and almost certainly lose much more?

Ideally wildlife would not need such active intervention to thrive but the reality is that for now in some places we don’t have that luxury. Nature reserves are named this way for a reason. They are reserves for the future – not the answer in themselves. Our wildlife has retreated into these last strongholds, and to give us a chance of one day expanding them and helping wildlife to disperse and recolonise, we must first of all preserve the diversity within them. This can involve sustaining traditional land management practices to maintain the richness of our wildflower meadows, woodlands or heathlands – places that are part of our natural and cultural heritage. But on some nature reserves this can mean minimal or no management at all, or a mixture of approaches.

Meanwhile – and this is the breakthrough that The Wildlife Trusts and others have made – whole new areas of land need to be made more hospitable for wildlife and natural processes restored. Our vision is for Living Landscapes which give so much more space for nature that there would much less need for human intervention to maintain diversity.

With this ambition The Wildlife Trusts are re-naturalising rivers, working with farmers to create wildlife habitats in highly modified landscapes, reintroducing keystone species like the beaver to Scotland and blocking hundreds of kilometres of drainage ditches dug across our uplands to restore their hydrology and wildlife. The restoration of natural processes often involves initial work to reverse damage (e.g. reprofiling a river bank to restore it to its natural state) and then standing back to let nature do the rest. The latter example is also a good example of conservation providing benefits that help nature to show up on the country’s balance sheet – in this case through the value of (drinking) water and carbon storage. We can only hope for diversity to be sustained if we can achieve this type of restoration on a decent scale.

But this is also about the relationship between humans and the rest of the natural world. People need to understand that they are part of, not separate to, nature. Until this happens on a significant scale the odds will always be stacked against us. Our task is to create a rich new ecology for the future and we believe that humans must be part of this. All this takes time, effort and money of course. The support of our members helps us to achieve a massive amount but funding streams such as those that deliver agri-environment schemes are also critical. Just as important is the political will to get behind fantastic restoration ideas like the Great Fen project in the Cambridgeshire fens or the Pumlumon Project in Wales. That same will should reject those proposals – such as the plan to build a new M4 ‘relief’ road across the wetlands of the Gwent Levels – that are out of kilter with saving, let alone improving, nature’s fortunes.


Natural England:

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There is a continuum of land management conservation practices which enable the delivery of biodiversity objectives, from the fine-tuning of existing farm management practices at one end, through more significant habitat manipulation, reintroductions and translocations, landscape-scale improvements (such as river corridor restoration), to large-scale rewilding at the other. All these techniques have a role to play in conservation practice. Rewilding alone is not a ‘golden bullet’.

Rewilding has the very deliberate effect of increasing the overall ecosystems services provided by a place at a landscape scale (such as flood management, carbon sequestration, ecological diversity, tourism, and so on) even if food production (as one ecosystem service) may decrease. However rewilding will not benefit all valued species or wildlife communities (such as limestone grasslands or hay meadows) and so needs to be carefully integrated into wider conservation practice.


Rewilding: Science, Practice, and Politics by Jamie Lorimer, Chris Sandom, Paul Jepson, Chris Doughty, Maan Barua, and Keith J. Kirby:

Summary Points

  1. Rewilding is gaining in popular and scientific interest as a new approach to conservation.
  2. Rewilding is a plastic term with several different meanings.
  3. These share a long-term aim of maintaining, or increasing, biodiversity, while reducing the impact of present and past human interventions through the restoration of species and ecological processes.
  4. Three different historical benchmarks inform rewilding research and practice: the Pleistocene, the early Holocene, and the novel ecosystems of the Anthropocene.
  5. Rewilding has focused on addressing trophic cascades through the (re)introduction of keystone species, including large herbivores and predators.
  6. Rewilding comes in passive and active forms, with rewilding happening by virtue of human abandonment as well as deliberate conservation interventions.
  7. Rewilding has the potential of generating economic and social benefits.
  8. Rewilding has proved controversial where it conflicts with prevalent forms of environmental management, including orthodox approaches to conservation.