There has been a lot of talk recently about the definition of rewilding and the apparent lack of a definitive meaning for the movement that is gaining more and more traction in the public consciousness across the world right now.
For me, it has always been clear, but not something that can be summed up in a short sentence. So in the interests of clarity, here is my interpretation for which I believe there is a strong consensus.
Rewilding at its core is about the mass restoration of ecosystems, encompassing small, medium and large scale projects where natural processes are allowed to interact without ongoing human intervention; restoring land to its uncultivated and wild state to maximise biodiversity. The media has predictably diluted this message and instead fixated on the reintroduction of lost species – but this is just one, albeit important, ingredient for achieving the rewilding ideal. However, reinstating an ecosystem’s trophic function – and by that I mean the way in which predator, prey and plants interact – is a pivotal part of the rewilding model.
It’s about optimising the conditions for the existing wildlife to thrive and spread, and also about increasing the ecological dynamism through the reintroduction of top predators, large herbivores, keystone species and ecosystem engineers alongside more trees and vegetation. By doing this, new habitats are created, which in turn, boost the overall biodiversity and subsequent health of the landscape. In areas where the land is so degraded that it needs a helping hand from humans to get it back on the path to restoration, we then need to step back and let nature take its natural course.
The second part of rewilding’s definition is more intangible, but just as important – and is inextricably connected to the first part. This involves the rewilding of ourselves. Through the creation of wilder, more fascinating and inspiring natural surroundings, we create something which enriches our lives and encourages us to explore the outdoors more: reconnecting ourselves to the natural world and subsequently leading wilder and more outdoor-orientated lives. Rewilding is about getting back in touch with nature, physically, mentally and emotionally.