Why rewilding is a story of hope

Loch Beinn a Mheadhoin in Glen Affric Scotland c scotlandbigpicture com

As we celebrate the second annual World Rewilding Day on 20 March 2022, we share seven reasons #WhyWeRewild.

What is rewilding and what can it do for the world?

Rewilding is the large-scale restoration of ecosystems to the point where nature can take care of itself. It seeks to reinstate natural processes and, where appropriate and when the time is right, reintroduce missing species – allowing them to shape the landscape and its habitats. Rewilding offers hope and the opportunity to give nature (and us) a fighting chance – bringing it back to life, saving wildlife, tackling climate breakdown, and benefiting people and communities. It’s about moving from nature protection to recovery and restoration.

Seven ways rewilding can help

Thursley heath wetlands

1. Help fix the climate crisis

Nature is our best ally in the fight against climate change. Trees, peatlands, saltmarshes and other ecosystems are perfectly adapted to soak carbon dioxide and store it. If only we had more of them.

Did you know? 12% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions could be captured by restoring and protecting native woodland, peatlands, heaths and species-rich grasslands over 30% of Britain. At Steart Marshes restored wetlands are estimated to have stored over 18,000 tonnes of carbon over a four-year period.

Knepp estate

2. Support local economies

Rewilding land and seas can create a thriving ecosystem of employment – from restoring naturally-flowing rivers to mixing livestock management with wildlife guiding, to running community activities. And of course that means more people visiting the area to see the resurgent wildlife, enjoy eco-tourism experiences, and spend their money in local cafes, pubs and shops. Dig into Nature-Based Economies.

Did you know? Over just 10 years, rewilding at sites across England and Wales led to a 65% increase in jobs and a fourteenfold increase in volunteering positions.*

Seahorse in eelgrass

3. Reverse biodiversity loss

By allowing diverse habitats to re-establish themselves, from woodland to seagrass meadows to peatland to scrub, we can give wildlife a chance to bounce back. Even better, if we connect these restored ecosystems up, species are able to move as the climate changes, saving many from extinction.

Did you know? 56% of Britain’s species are in decline and 15% threatened with extinction. Yet in places where nature has been allowed to return, species are burgeoning. At Dundreggan, in the Highlands, a former sporting estate where native forest is now recovering from centuries of intensive grazing, over 4,000 species are now found, including golden eagles.

Nursery children in forest school

4. Improve our health and wellbeing

Rewilding isn’t just about benefiting wildlife, it’s very much about people. Restored natural landscapes are key to our health and wellbeing, giving us a peaceful place to escape, an open-air gym to take exercise, an outdoor classroom for children to learn, and a way to connect with others.

Did you know? Health care professionals now prescribe’ nature. The growing practice of social prescribing’ refers patients to local, non-clinical services to improve physical and mental health. And it’s just getting off the ground at Mapperton Wildlands in Dorset.

Baby beavers

5. Clean air and water, and create healthy soils

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that a thriving countryside is a nice to have’, especially as more of us become urban dwellers. But properly functioning ecosystems directly affect us all. Healthy soils bring us nourishing food, trees help to filter the air we breathe, and unpolluted rivers give us clean water. All things we can’t live without. 

Did you know? In Britain only 14% of rivers are in good ecological condition, but reintroducing beavers to the right places can help improve water quality. Studies have shown that beaver dams and ponds can reduce nitrogen pollution in watercourses. Discover more about how beavers help.

Trees for life volunteers

6. Strengthen communities

When local people are put at the heart of the process, rewilding has the great potential to unite them in a bold vision for their neighbourhood. It’s not only the process of designing a future together that brings people closer, but the wild landscape itself becomes a place that the community benefits from – giving a sense of ownership and belonging, providing jobs, and offering opportunities for health and wellbeing.

Did you know? In Scotland’s Langholm the community crowdfunded to buy 2,100ha of grouse moor to transform it into a nature reserve. Together they’re protecting and restoring peatlands and ancient woodlands to provide a haven for wildlife as well as a place where people can connect with wild places.

Cabilla cornwall

7. Mitigate extreme weather events

Nature is a powerful tool in helping us deal with the effects of climate breakdown. Land that is covered in both native trees and scrub absorbs more water than denuded hills, reducing the risk of flash flooding. Likewise, healthy soils and habitats with a variety of native vegetation are at much less risk of wildfire than intensively grazed grasslands, conifer plantations, and damaged moorlands.

Did you know?
Between 2015 and 2021 the UK government spent £2.6 billion on flood defences. Rewilding – by re-wiggling’ rivers or introducing beavers in appropriate places – could help us manage flooding at a fraction of the cost. Learn more in our flooding report.

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STORIES OF HOPE

Steart marshes

Case Study: Steart Marshes

Somerset’s Steart Marshes are a working wetland’ absorbing carbon, providing a flood defence, enabling livestock grazing and offering a wild place for locals to explore.

Dundreggan tree planting

Case Study: Dundreggan Estate

In the Highlands rewilding is breathing life back into Dundreggan’s disappearing woodland, bringing golden eagles, new jobs and an incredible experience for visitors.

White park cattle mapperton credit sam rose

Case Study: Mapperton Wildlands

With ecotourism and social prescribing all part of the mix at Mapperton Estate, this is a rewilding journey with people at its heart.

IMG 9545 Short eared Owl Langholm June 2008 John Wright

Case Study: Langholm Initiative

Earlier this year the Langholm Initiative completed the largest ever community buyout of land in southern Scotland, creating a new nature reserve – as well as new jobs

*We carried out a detailed analysis of 43 of the projects within the Rewilding Network, covering an area of 59,487ha, of which 38,610ha have been assessed as rewilding.

Image credits: Main image, Glen Affric © Scotlandbigpicture​.com; 1. Thursley Heath Common © Alex Manders/​Shutterstock; 2. Knepp Estate © Knepp Wildland; 3. Seahorse in Eelgrass © Alexander Mustard/​2020VISION; 4. Children in Forest School © Paul Harris/​2020VISION; 5. Beavers © Cam Goodhead/​Cabilla Cornwall; 6. Trees for Life volunteers © Stephen Couling/​Trees for Life; 7. Cabilla Cornwall © Cam Goodhead; Shape a wilder world, Wildcat © Peter Cairns/scotlandbigpicture.com; A world movement, Bison © Lightpoet/​Shutterstock.