Making Rewilding work in the Anthropocene

ZSL is working to develop Rewilding into an effective conservation tool for a rapidly changing world.

Horses

Summary of research

Biodiversity in the 21st century is undergoing rapid change. Climate change in particular is presenting a new challenge: whilst climate zones are shifting towards the poles and uphill, completely novel climatic conditions are emerging in some areas or the world. This is expected to lead to a global reshuffling of species, creating new types of communities and ecosystems.

Combined with other anthropogenic drivers, such as land use change and pollution, it is clear that the traditional aim of conservation – that of restoring or mimicking a perceived natural, stable state, often inspired by past conditions – may be increasingly difficult to achieve in many places. Instead, we need a new paradigm that explicitly takes into account global environmental change, as well as biodiversity’s responses to it. Rewilding is an umbrella term for a range of conservation approaches which aims to provide such a paradigm.

 

Why we are there

Rewilding is broadly aimed at reorganising species communities and natural processes to allow a self-sustaining, ultimately autonomous, ecosystem to develop – without imposing a vision for how this system will look like. This can include restoring a wide variety of ecosystem dynamics, e.g. by reintroducing extinct predators or herbivores (or their ecological equivalents), and reducing human interventions such as fire control. As an emerging concept, many different rewilding techniques and approaches are being proposed, often without a clear understanding of their relative socio-ecological benefits and drawbacks. This makes it difficult to identify Rewilding opportunities and provide advice to conservation practitioners and policy makers. ZSL has a wealth of experience with species reintroductions and ecosystem monitoring, and is thus in a really strong place to help develop a practical framework for rewilding initiatives.

 

Impact

Our goal is to support efforts to develop Rewilding into a scientifically robust policy tool that can answer to the conservation challenges of the 21st century.

 

Key species

This project is focussed on entire ecosystems rather than single species.

 

People involved

 

Useful links

Rewilding Europe for biodiversity and conservation

Rethinking environmental legislation to include the conservation ideas of tomorrow