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. Continue reading Defining Rewilding→
I recently spent a very enjoyable week wildlife-spotting on the Isle of Mull, just off the west coast of Scotland. The island’s biodiversity is excellent, primarily due to the wide variety of habitats on offer. Oak woods, coniferous forest, moorland, marshland, sandy beaches, sea lochs, machair, hill lochans, streams and rivers, mountains, estuaries and around 300 miles of coastline: Mull has it all. And the seas that surround the second largest island in the Inner Hebrides are arguably even more species-rich, with an abundance of fish, crustaceans and other marine life.
This enviable title has been awarded to Manu National Park in Peru, now believed to contain the greatest variety of terrestrial species on Earth. Following exhaustive research conducted across 16 of the most biodiverse places in the world, using 60 camera traps, Manu’s pristine mosaic of 14 different ecosystems came out on top. The study was carried out by the Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring [TEAM] Network, utilising systematic field station data collection procedures honed over many years to ensure the utmost veracity. Their work serves to identify trends in species diversity, which can then inform and shape conservation strategy.
As someone who has followed the rewilding debate with increasing interest over the last few years, I was recently struck by how polarised the discourse has become. The ‘roots’ of rewilding appear to have been consumed by the attention-grabbing headlines of keystone species and apex predator reintroductions. Generally speaking, there has been a tendency for the media to fixate on this, along with the social and cultural implications. Meanwhile, the fundamental principles and common sense conservation practices that underpin rewilding are often lost or overlooked in the ensuing fallout. Continue reading The Essence of Rewilding→
There’s been a lot of talk recently in Britain about grand plans for ‘ecological restoration’. But what about rewilding on a smaller scale? At a time when our garden wildlife is suffering from the effects of overly manicured lawns, pesticide-laden vegetation and a general lack of habitat connectivity, there’s never been a better time to inject some much needed wildness into your garden. Here are some suggestions on how to go about it and some information on the species that could benefit as a result. Continue reading Garden Rewilding→
In the first of a new spotlight series, I’ll be profiling our planet’s most biodiverse regions. The 2,700 mile Mekong river and its surrounding areas make up the Greater Mekong region and spans across Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar and the southern province of Yunnan in China. Since 1997, over 1500 new species have been discovered by the scientific community, as previously unexplored areas were studied. The variety of habitats it contains are every bit as rich as the wildlife, with ecosystems as diverse as: lush rainforest, dry savannah, wetlands and swamp.
Few species polarise opinion more than the Giant Panda. On the one hand, it’s endearing features and inherent charisma ensures that it receives adoration across the world, yet it’s also at the receiving end of much resentment, particularly from conservationists and wildlife enthusiasts – including myself – who feel it receives a vastly disproportionate amount of conservation income to enable its fragile existence to continue. This got me thinking: how many other species have benefited from giant panda conservation. To what extent is it justified; is it a cost and time effective means of conservation?
I’ve been reading more and more about the correlation between biodiversity and ecosystem health: the more species there are, the healthier the habitat. This might sound like a very obvious observation, however, it’s an often overlooked fact. Against the bleak backdrop of Britain’s depleted native wildlife, it got me thinking; has the conservation community’s reaction to invasive species been too alarmist? I think it has, and with good reason. Our habitats have been so degraded that the introduction of an ‘alien’ species, such as American Mink, was always going to cause havoc with our precariously poised ecology.
This month, Scotland’s foremost conservation volunteering charity celebrated seven years of forest restoration at their flagship Dundreggan Estate, where over 255,000 trees have now been planted as part of their vision to restore the ancient Caledonian Forest in the Scottish Highlands. Just 1% of this previously rich habitat remains, and so Trees for Life has worked tirelessly since its foundation in 1989 by Alan Watson Featherstone, to regenerate this forgotten ecosystem and its unique wildlife. I was recently invited up to see their tree nursery and the surrounding area, and was impressed with the scale of the project and the progress they’ve made since taking ownership of the upland habitat which had lost much of its tree cover and was overgrazed by deer and sheep.
Found myself reminiscing today about a trip to Tasmania in 2006, and specifically, time spent exploring the Cradle Mountain National Park. The fond memories have been intertwined with an increasing disillusionment I have with the habitats and wildlife in my home country of Scotland, where experiencing wild animal encounters are a rarity and biodiversity is in short supply, particularly in relation to mammals. The variety, although severely lacking compared with many other countries, isn’t the main problem – it’s the sparse distribution of much of the fauna and the lack of habitat connectivity.