Oh hey curious readers, this week we’re unleashing our WILD side, revisiting a topic that has continued to grow in popularity…rewilding! We’ve got some positive updates for you all that will keep you eager beavers happy and the eagle-eyed environmentalists amongst us suitably jubilant… read on for more amoose-ing updates…

So what is rewilding?

Let’s start by just making sure we’re all clear on what rewilding is…

As defined by Rewilding Europe, an organisation leading and coordinating rewilding projects across the continent, rewilding can be defined as:

“A progressive approach to conservation. It’s about letting nature take care of itself, enabling natural processes to shape land and sea, repair damaged ecosystems and restore degraded landscapes. Through rewilding, wildlife’s natural rhythms create wilder, more biodiverse habitats.”

In other words, nature knows how to keep our planet in equilibrium and balance. Rewilding lets ecosystems restore this balance by allowing it to ‘do its thaaang’ without human intervention. We wrote about rewilding becoming an increasingly popular phenomenon in 2019 (gosh hasn’t time flown?!) but since then it has continued to grow and grow in popularity across the world! 

Rewilding can take a variety of forms depending on the land available and, ultimately, the ambitions of the landowner and local populations. It can be small-scale (e.g. leaving your garden unmowed and building a wildlife pond) and large-scale – such as the recent reintroduction of the Eurasian beaver to areas of the UK

Where has rewilding been implemented?

In the UK, rewilding has been increasingly popular with both small and large scale landowners. The Knepp Estate was the pioneer (check out the founder Isabella Tree’s book about her experiences for a magical eco page turner). Since then we’ve seen the appearance of other large and small schemes, including WildEast, Scotland: the Big Picture and even Rewilding Stockport (you heard me right, Stockport!)… 

Beyond the UK, projects are even more dramatic in the scale and level of ambition for wildlife restoration. Rewilding Europe have been collaborating with local partners throughout the continent to rewild 15 large landscapes throughout Europe, from the wilds of Romania to the Scottish Highlands. The aim of these large-scale projects, in collaboration with local communities, are to measure and evidence the benefits to people and the planet of rewilding, as well as taking learnings that can be applied to future, similar, projects. In Scotland, this has involved the reintroduction of wetlands and peatlands, replanting native flora, creating wildlife corridors and developing a nature-based economy for local communities. 

How successful have rewilding projects been?

As covered in this recent article – it has been incredibly successful, particularly in areas where it has been implemented with planning and long-term strategic guidance. In particular, rewilding has resulted in a dramatic increase in the numbers and range of large ‘keystone’ species; wolves, brown bears and white-tailed eagles have all dramatically increased in population size across Europe due to human-driven efforts to reintroduce these species and restore their natural habitats. This success was highlighted as part of the European Wildlife Comeback Report (published by Rewilding Europe). Other key highlights included:

  • A documented increase in both the range and size of surveyed wildlife populations
  • An expansion in the range of habitat of large mammals e.g. the population of Eurasian Beaver has increased by 857%!
  • The population size of surveyed bird species has increased on average by 470%! 

And there are further benefits to these numbers that can be celebrated:

  • Rewilding has been found to ‘animate’ the carbon cycle, increasing carbon sequestration rates via natural sources (i.e. more natural sources take in more carbon). This can help us to mitigate climate change (to some extent)…
  • Increase in large ‘keystone’ species has been shown to help maintain complex landscapes. Wolves have also been shown to create ‘landscapes of fear’ that limit elk grazing, helping other species to thrive.
  • Restoration of natural ecosystems also brings benefits to local communities – providing new income via wildlife tourism that is sustainable and less exploitative. 
  • It also provides a positive impact on our health and wellbeing – being in nature makes us feel good!!

So what are the learnings we can take from it?

Rewilding is cool, but there are some important learnings that can be taken to inform other environmental initiatives and movements…

  1. The importance of keystone species – rewilding isn’t just about the big animals (the bears, the bison, the beavers…) but these larger predators have been shown to provide disproportionately positive benefits to the entire ecosystem they inhabit. They drive ecosystem processes from the top-down and bottom-up, and the benefits they bring to other local fauna and flora has been shown to be massive. Big up the Bison!! 
  1. The importance of involving local communities – rewilding success stories engage with the local communities and implement changes with the support of local people. Using their knowledge, and ensuring they benefit from this new form of land management, is vital to deliver long-term success and also fully realise the social benefits to human health and wellbeing. 
  1. Applying this concept to our seas… Our oceans’ natural ecosystems have been similarly depleted after years of farming and exploitation. There is growing interest in allowing precious marine ecosystems to be restored, in a similar manner to rewilding projects on land. The benefits are similar to that of land-based rewilding schemes – positively benefiting natural flora and fauna, local populations, as well as significantly increasing rates of carbon sequestration – an important migitator of anthropogenic climate change!

Be Curious

  • Rewild your local area by following these tips. 
  • Read more about and support the Rewilding efforts throughout Europe here.
  • Read and support the rewilding efforts to improve ocean biodiversity and restore marine ecosystems here.
  • Go on a rewilding holiday and support wildlife tourism that endeavours to deliver a positive benefit to local communities as well local wildlife. Some great ideas are listed here and here.
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