Rewilding: everything you need to know

rewilding

Human beings are increasingly consuming natural resources, which translates into environmental changes at the ecosystem and global levels. The damage we do to our planet is quantifiable, since currently 32.000 species are in danger, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). To avoid this situation, the concept of rewilding or rewilding.

In this article we are going to explain what rewilding is, what it is for, what objectives it pursues and how it is carried out.

What is rewilding

ecosystem restoration

Rewilding is defined as the concept of large-scale conservation that aims to restore and protect natural areas by reintroducing key species and promoting connectivity between areas that have been interrupted by human activities.

Originally, the term rewilding was used to implement strategies focused on reintroducing keystone species of top predators into ecosystems seeking to restore their nutritional balance. One example is the Yellowstone wolf, which was released into the park in 1926 after the massive elk population caused the animal to disappear.

The truth is that today rewilding encompasses many more disciplines. It is not just about reintroducing species, it is about restoring the ecological integrity of the environment and reducing human impact on it. The objective is clear and concise: ecological restoration is sought to the point where ecosystems can naturally self-regulate again.

Key features

rewilding

The most important thing about rewilding is the reintroduction of native species in areas where they have disappeared. This involves bringing back predators and herbivores that used to inhabit those places, thus creating a web of complex ecological interactions. By doing so, the natural balance is fostered and lost biodiversity is restored.

the rewilding promotes the succession of natural and spontaneous processes instead of intensive human management. It seeks to allow ecosystems to self-regulate and develop autonomously. This implies letting rivers follow their natural course, allowing ecological succession and reducing human interference in ecosystem dynamics.

It also focuses on the creation of protected areas and wildlife corridors to allow the free movement of species and facilitate migration and dispersal. These spaces provide safe haven and breeding opportunities for endangered species and help maintain connectivity between different habitats.

In addition to ecosystem restoration, rewilding aims to foster the emotional connection between humans and nature. It is sought that people reconnect with their natural environment, appreciate its beauty and understand the importance of its conservation. This is achieved through environmental education, ecotourism and the participation of local communities in rewilding projects.

Bases and approach of rewilding

rewilding times

Rewilding is based on the analysis and action on three fundamental pillars of the ecosystem: trophic complexity, natural disturbance and connectivity. Below, we describe each of these bases in detail.

trophic complexity

This is the closest approach to the original concept of rewilding. Large herbivores have several impacts on the ecosystems in which they reside, since they directly affect other taxa, such as small birds, small mammals, insects, and plants through their browsing activities and consumption of vegetables. natural ecosystems are in absolute balance because super predators they keep these large creatures out so their activities don't get out of hand, basically any environment becomes a dry pen.

When the man puts his hand where it does not belong, this balance is completely upset. Whether due to lack of prey, destruction of feeding grounds, or direct hunting, in many cases these top predators and other keystone species end up being modified, which means that their populations are drastically reduced or completely disappeared.

Trophic reconstruction not only considers the reintroduction of species that were previously in the ecosystem, but is key to ecosystem maintenance, as it can also be addressed through reactive and preventive approaches. The coexistence of humans and ecosystem species, known as passive reconstruction, can be encouraged or legislated to limit or prohibit hunting of threatened species.

If the species of interest has completely disappeared, reintroduction or ecological substitution may be considered (change from one species to another more suitable to an unbalanced ecosystem with the same function), although it can be very dangerous in the long term. Of course, caution must be exercised when altering ecosystems, as the effects may be irreversible.

natural disturbance

Although it may not seem like it at first glance, not all natural disasters are negative at the ecosystem level. For example, the presence of biological pests, small-scale fires, or flooding under normal weather conditions promotes the reconfiguration of ecosystems and their species, which translates into greater biological heterogeneity.

In anthropogenic settings, natural disturbances are often suppressed or controlled in a deterministic way, a fact that can lead to larger-scale disasters (for example, a few small fires can prevent future large fires). This rebuilding pillar aims to restore the randomness of natural events: it is not about everything being controlled by humans, but about ecosystems regulating themselves in the most logical way possible.

rewilding connectivity

Connectivity between biological populations is essential because gene flow prevents the effects of genetic drift from being ultimately detrimental to species in nature. Without intending to enter into genetic terms that escape this opportunity, we can summarize the whole process with the following concept: A new visiting individual in a population is a breath of fresh air because it can bring new variations of its genes, which will spread through reproduction and is passed on to future generations.

Unfortunately, the structure of many human origins limited or directly severed the connection between populations. The fact that something as simple as a road can be an insurmountable obstacle for many organisms makes interaction between different population centers of the same species difficult.

This branch of rewilding addresses this problem creating ecological corridors (structures that allow animals to move around while humans build them) or simply avoiding building these structures in the first place. Measures of population connectivity are varied, but the overall goal is to try to restore naturally occurring gene flow in ecosystems.

I hope that with this information you can learn more about rewilding and its characteristics.


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