The numerous benefits of rewilding

Walking around urban areas, buying food from supermarkets, and using water from a tap, it’s easy to forget that none of it would be possible without the natural world. 

Everything we need to survive is fundamentally a product of nature. We rely on natural ecosystems to produce clean water, grow our food, and oxygenate our air, as well as a host of other “eco-services”. As Sir David Attenborough put it “we are part of the natural world. If we damage the natural world, we damage ourselves.” 

Unfortunately, our actions are causing serious harm to the habitats and ecosystems upon which we rely. 

Rewilding is a form of conservation that lets nature take care of itself. By reintroducing natural processes, species ecosystems will restore themselves, with far-reaching benefits. 

Yorkshire beavers to reduce flooding 

A lot of the natural fauna of the UK has been wiped out due to hunting and habitat destruction. In the UK, beavers were hunted to extinction around 500 years ago, coveted for their fur and castoreum. A tragic loss of these charismatic creatures. 

But now in 2020, beavers are being reintroduced back into Yorkshire as part of a rewilding project. Researchers are interested to see how their activities can enhance the effectiveness of artificial dams. 

This follows studies in Scotland and Devon that found that the positive effects of beaver activities: flood management, filtering pollutants, boosting other wildlife populations such as fish and amphibians, outweighed the negatives: flooding of upriver farmland, loss of orchard trees. 

It is hoped that similar benefits will be gained in Yorkshire and that following this more beavers will be reintroduced across the UK. 

Rewilding land to fight climate change 

As well as being beautiful and providing homes for wildlife, habitats such as woodlands, wetlands, peatlands, heathlands, salt marshes, and coastal waters all make significant contributions to reducing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. 

Therefore, these habitats could play a significant role in the UK and other countries meeting their carbon reduction targets laid out in the Paris Climate Agreement. 

In a report published by Rewilding Britain, it is estimated that rewilding 6 million hectares of the country has the potential to remove 10% of the UK’s current annual greenhouse gas emissions. 

A natural solution for fighting climate change. 

Rewilding for sustainable farming 

A lot of lands that were once wild are now intensely cultivated for farming. However, it’s not always the case that land is particularly suited for such activity and that it would be environmentally and economically beneficial to let nature take it back. 

The Knepp Castle Estate in West Sussex is an example of this. Following years of fluctuating profits, the owners decided to make the switch from a traditional farming business and take a different approach with rewilding. 

Rather than being fenced in, their animals are allowed to roam free across the estate with minimal supervision, driving habitat, and soil restoration. Over the years since they implemented the changes, nature has boomed and the farm has been transformed into a sanctuary for wildlife, including rare turtle doves and endangered nightingales

What is more, the owners have been able to boost their income through a prosperous eco-tourism and camping business. 

How to support rewilding 

The above examples are just three of the many tangible advantages of rewilding. By now you’re loving the concept and thinking “great, how can I get involved?” 

A good place to start is by heading over to the Rewilding Britain or Rewilding Europe websites where you can either sign up to volunteer or contribute to the cause. 

For rewilding to take off, it’s going to need the support of people and communities across all levels of society, so any help you can give will be greatly appreciated. 

If you know of any rewilding projects happening in your area, maybe you’d like to write about it as I’m sure Naturewatch Foundation would be delighted to host your blog. 

Guest blog by Finn Bartram

Photo by Niklas Hamann on Unsplash

 

 

- June 29, 2020