What is rewilding?

You might have heard of the word rewilding in the news surrounding conservation but what actually is it?!

Rewilding is a type of conservation work that is currently defined as leaving a defined area alone for natural processes to occur. The theory behind the movement is that by leaving an area entirely alone the natural order of things will return, with the change being long term.

One example of this has been on alpine grasslands such as in the Snowdonia National Park. Once upon a time this area would have various areas of grasslands with shrubs and at lower altitudes there would have been broad leaf forest. However, due to extreme overgrazing of these areas it is now reduced to only a few species of grasses. Rewilding movements in the area, have fenced off areas of land from sheep to allow for regrowth of shrubs. They are also working with farmers to encourage sheep to stay away from certain areas. So far these projects have moved slowly but are working to encourage biodiversity.

Another project from Rewilding Britain worked on The River Wandle in South London –

In 1805, the river Wandle, which flows through south London, was described as “the hardest worked river for its size in the world.” It was an urban sewer, poisoned by bleach and dyes from the 90 mills along its length. It was later straightened and canalised to speed water away from homes and businesses.

But in this urban rewilding project, the Wandle Trust is restoring the river to its former glory as a beautiful chalk stream. Almost all the world’s chalk streams are found in England. They are rare and threatened habitats.

The Trust has been putting back features that harboured life in the river, which had been pulled out by overzealous engineers. It runs community cleanups every month, enlisting local people to remove the junk dumped in the water. It has been creating passages through the weirs to enable eels to migrate upstream. Children in local schools have been raising trout to restock the river.

The children’s involvement has encouraged them to see the Wandle as part of their landscape and to start playing in it once more. The project is rewilding children as well as the natural world. And it provides a valuable wildlife corridor right into the heart of the city.

There have even been bigger projects suggested like reintroducing species to these rewilding areas, this has included larger mammals and even wolves. Rewilding is viewed by some as a necessity for the future of conservation and encouraging biodiversity as it is low cost and works very well. However, others see rewilding as a waste of potential land use and that it alienates land owners.

Conservation can often be a divisive issue and rewilding is no different. Let me know what your thoughts are in the comments!

Here are a few more links to other articles on rewilding if you are interested:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/01/rewilding-conservation-ecology-national-trust

http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/rewilding

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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