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What is rewilding?

Rewilding is a popular topic right now, and is a way to help restore ecosystems which have been damaged by human activity.

The idea is to introduce just enough biodiversity back into an area to allow the plant and wildlife to start to look after itself and restore the original balance of the habitat.

The benefits of rewilding include the protection and increase of endangered species, more green space to tackle climate change and the benefits to human health and wellbeing.

How does rewilding work?

Every part of the UK has been changed through human activity, which has inevitably changed the ecosystem and biodiversity of each area. Through rewilding, an area can start to rebuild itself and get closer to the state it was originally in.

The number of native UK species has plummeted over the past 50 years, so rewilding can help to restore some of those areas where species have been in decline, and reintroduce species that became extinct in particular areas.

In order for a habitat to function successfully, a range of species are needed to complete all the links of the environmental chain. For example, a predatory animal needs prey, and those prey will need plants. Plants need birds and insects to pollinate and reproduce. If any of these links are missing, a habitat will start to disappear.

Where can rewilding be done?

Theoretically, rewilding can happen anywhere! Any green space can be left alone to revive itself, or given a helping hand to reintroduce some of the keystone species of that particular area.

On an individual level, more people are spreading wildflower seeds in their gardens to encourage local plants, which in turn support insects and birdlife.

There are schemes to transform areas of local parks to allow those without gardens to take part in rewilding and witness the wildlife it encourages.

On a larger scale, rewilding can take place on verges, in Nature Reserves and even rivers and forests. In fact, it’s around these areas where some of the most exciting rewilding projects are happening.

Native British species such as wolves, bison, lynx and beavers could all be freely roaming around Britain’s natural spaces soon.

Reintroducing bison

Wild bison used to roam around our forests in large numbers, but became extinct across Europe in 1919. Now, there are projects underway to introduce them back into woodland in the UK.

There are plans to release a male and three females into fenced woodland in Kent. With each female producing one calf a year, it’s hoped there will soon be a significant herd, with some wild bison able to be moved on to other areas of the UK where they were traditionally found.

Bison were a key species in the UK – as they moved around, they pulled down trees to clear pathways and rubbed against bark as they passed. This creates dead wood, which is vital in providing a habitat for insects.

The areas stripped of trees become scrubland, attracting a different variety of flora and fauna than you would find in a dense forest. As different plants grow in the scrubland, they will attract insects, birds and other animals, increasing the biodiversity of the area naturally.

Creating these conditions in woodland artificially would take a huge amount of effort, but these bison will be left alone to restore the ecosystem naturally. An area which has been rewilded can be completely restored in around 15 to 20 years.

What are the benefits of rewilding?

There are constant reminders all around us about climate change and the impact we’re having on the environment. Rewilding counters some of this, allowing more plant life to thrive and therefore reducing the levels of carbon dioxide in the air.

While nature reserves have done a great job at protecting and nurturing specific areas, they tend to be isolated spots, and therefore couldn’t exist on their own indefinitely. Rewilding areas across the UK will create more of a ‘pathway’ between sites, making it more likely that areas can thrive without human intervention.

It also helps with human wellbeing. The commonly reported ‘disconnect’ with nature can be addressed in part through areas of rewilding, helping with mental health and providing a break from the stresses and strains of modern life.

Rewilding could become more common once the new Environmental Bill is brought into place too. The Bill is currently working its way through Parliament, but the most recent draft includes measures to reward farmers and landowners who invest in sustainable and environmentally beneficial land use, rather than simply providing support based on the amount of land owned.

 

With rewilding becoming increasingly important environmentally and through legislature, there are hopes that increasing amounts of land in the UK will return to self-sustaining, naturally maintained habitats.

If you’re a farmer or landowner and would like to discuss how rewilding could benefit you and your environment, get in touch with us on 01225 459564 or email enquiries@engain.com

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