In a world increasingly defined by urban sprawl, industrialization, and the relentless march of human progress, nature’s wild spaces are disappearing. But, rewilding has the potential to change that.
Rewilding, a term that has gained momentum in recent years, offers a vision of our planet’s future that is both captivating and transformative. It presents an opportunity to reverse the damage we’ve inflicted on our environment and to restore the delicate balance that once thrived between humans and the natural world.
What is Rewilding?
Rewilding is a form of ecological restoration aimed at increasing biodiversity and restoring natural processes. It differs from ecological restoration in that, while human intervention may be involved, rewilding aspires to reduce human influence on ecosystems.
At its core, rewilding is a movement that seeks to revive ecosystems, rebuild habitats, and reintroduce native species to areas where they have long been absent.
It is a holistic approach to conservation that not only aims to protect individual species but also aims to rejuvenate entire ecosystems, allowing natural processes to return to what they once were. Rewilding is different from traditional conservation approaches, which often focus on preserving a snapshot of a particular habitat or species. By contrast, rewilding seeks to create self-sustaining and resilient ecosystems that can adapt to changes in the environment.
How Will Rewilding Change Our World?
The potential of rewilding to change our world is profound.
Rewilding is not just about bringing back lost species or rejuvenating landscapes; it’s about reviving the intricate web of life that sustains us all. By restoring ecosystems to their natural states, rewilding has the power to rekindle vital ecosystem services that are essential for life on Earth.
As forests, grasslands, and wetlands flourish once more, they act as nature’s lungs, purifying the air we breathe by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen.
These restored habitats also provide critical homes and breeding grounds for a diverse array of wildlife, from apex predators to tiny pollinators.
Moreover, by reestablishing healthy watersheds and natural river systems, rewilding helps filter and cleanse our water, ensuring its purity for both human consumption and the survival of countless aquatic species.
As ecosystems regain their ecological functions, we see cascading benefits for the entire environment. Rewilding can help control pest populations, reducing the need for harmful pesticides, while promoting soil health and fertility.
In essence, rewilding is not just an ecological endeavour; it’s a lifeline for humanity, a means to secure clean air, clean water, and a resilient environment that sustains us and future generations.
It also offers a lifeline for countless species, many of which are endangered or threatened, by restoring their habitats and enabling their populations to rebound.
Rewilding in Action
Rewilding is a multifaceted movement that encompasses a wide range of initiatives, each tailored to its specific ecological context, for example:
- Protecting, expanding, and interconnecting ancient woodlands to enable a diverse range of wildlife to establish and disperse, while simultaneously enhancing carbon storage.
- Managing and reducing populations of grazing animals to support the growth of trees and other vegetation, rebalancing ecosystems in the process.
- Implementing fishing restrictions and establishing marine protection areas to cease destructive practices like dredging and bottom trawling, allowing marine life to recover and thrive.
- Restoring wetlands and reintroducing beavers to bolster biodiversity, sequester carbon, and contribute to flood prevention efforts.
- Reintroducing missing species to reestablish crucial ecological relationships, such as those between predators, prey, and scavengers.
- Rehabilitating key marine ecosystems, including kelp forests, seagrass beds, and oyster reefs, to enhance biodiversity, carbon sequestration, and natural processes.
- Removing dams to facilitate unimpeded fish migration and restore natural erosion and deposition processes.
- Reconnecting rivers with their floodplains, restoring their natural course to reduce flooding risks and create habitats for aquatic and wetland wildlife.
- Establishing wildlife corridors and providing wildlife bridges to enable natural dispersal, helping species adapt to climate change and build resilience.
- Setting aside large tracts of land for nature to evolve independently, maximizing biodiversity, carbon storage, and essential ecosystem benefits.
- Cultivating wildlife-friendly gardens and promoting wildlife movement within urban and suburban areas to support nature on a smaller scale.
These varied rewilding strategies exemplify the diverse approaches taken to restore and reinvigorate ecosystems and wildlife across different landscapes and environments.
An excellent example of rewilding in action, is the Wilder Blean Project near Canterbury, Kent, a remarkable bison rewilding initiative that has introduced a new group of grazing animals, aimed at enhancing biodiversity in the area.
Joining the resident bison herd are Longhorn cattle, iron-age pigs, and Exmoor ponies. These animals have been carefully selected to play a crucial role in natural woodland management.
This endeavour builds upon the reintroduction of three female bison last July, followed by the importation of a bull from Germany and the birth of the first bison calf in the UK in millennia.
The Wilder Blean Project, jointly managed by Kent Wildlife Trust and Wildwood Trust, has already observed the positive impact of the bison on the habitat. They have begun to transform the landscape by debarking trees and creating valuable deadwood, which serves as homes for bats and invertebrates.
The concept of ‘wilder grazing’ involves using native wild breeds of livestock to replicate the ecological roles once played by mega-herbivores, such as wild horses, aurochs, and bison that once roamed the country. These animals were closely intertwined with their habitats, a connection they aim to emulate using contemporary species.
The grazing animals will be closely monitored for their environmental impact, with the woodland managers collecting data on soil quality, insect populations, and vegetation structure. Mark Habben, representing the Wildwood Trust, expressed excitement about this innovative project’s promising phase, highlighting the forthcoming research and observations to evaluate the behaviours and environmental influence of these remarkable animals.
How Can You Support Rewilding
One impactful way to support rewilding is by advocating for and participating in local conservation efforts and wildlife restoration projects.
Donations to organizations dedicated to rewilding can also make a significant difference.
You can also embrace rewilding principles in your own lives by creating wild areas in your gardens. Planting native species, allowing for natural vegetation growth, and providing habitat features such as birdhouses and insect hotels can help local wildlife thrive. Reducing pesticide use and minimizing artificial lighting at night can also help protect nocturnal creatures.
By fostering wild spaces and respecting the natural world in our daily lives, we can all play a role in the rewilding movement, helping to restore ecosystems, support biodiversity, and preserve our planet for future generations.
Rewilding Our Future
With all the threats facing our natural world, rewilding stands as a beacon of hope.
Rewilding is not merely about restoring what’s been lost; it’s about revitalizing our connection with nature, embracing the vital role it plays in our lives, and nurturing it back to health. By protecting, expanding, and reconnecting wild spaces, rewilding offers a lifeline to countless species and essential ecosystem services. It’s a reminder that our fate is intertwined with the fate of the natural world.
Most importantly, rewilding is a reminder that we are not apart from nature, but rather a part of nature and every action we make impacts our planet’s ecosystems.