This page is here to help with the most common questions we get sent in. Please, browse the answers below.
Rewilding is the large-scale restoration of ecosystems to the point where nature can take care of itself. It reestablishes natural processes and allows them to lead the way, free from set outcomes or end points. It encourages the return of threatened or missing species and embraces the ebb and flow of nature, allowing animals, plants, birds and the elements to shape our landscapes and habitats over time. If you would like to learn more, we recommend exploring this website! Why not start with our ‘What is rewilding?’ section?
Rewilding is vital, and takes a different approach from traditional nature conservation. In the past, conservation has focused on saving isolated fragments of nature, as nature reserves or places of scientific interest. We could see where rare plants and animals were hanging on and we tried to save them.
It was vital work, but unfortunately not enough to stop the decline in biodiversity. Globally, we’ve lost more than half of our wildlife [source: In 2018, WWF and Zoological Society of London’s Living Planet Report estimated that the total population of the world’s wild vertebrates (fish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals and birds) fell by 60% between 1970 and 2014] within living memory. And the UK is now one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world. This loss of biodiversity is more than a simple loss of our natural heritage.
It’s part of a global extinction crisis. It’s a sign that natural processes – natural tree growth, flooding, pollination, soil enrichment – are not being allowed to work properly. So we need to do more – and that ‘more’ is rewilding. Working hand in hand with traditional nature conservation, rewilding is looking to reverse this catastrophic loss and allow nature to flourish across much larger, better connected, and much more resilient areas. Less management is needed, making it more affordable and therefore sustainable.
Rewilding takes a holistic approach and looks at the health of the wider landscape. It recognises the power of nature to heal itself and work in its own way as it has for millennia. It helps deliver multiple benefits for people – including reduced flood risk, better water quality, carbon storage, health and wellbeing, and thriving communities. If we can give nature the space it needs, and help only where it needs it, we’ll be rewarded with a healthier planet, healthier people and a more sustainable future.
Definitely not! Whilst rewilding should involve some species reintroductions, at its core it is about restoring ecosystems. Britain is one of the most nature depleted countries in the world on the global biodiversity intactness index, and in the last 100 years we Brits have damaged our habitats at an unprecedented rate.
We’ve lost 40 million birds since the 1960s and more than half our native species have declined in numbers in the last 20 years. Restoring our ecosystems is vital if we are to address both the climate and biodiversity crises.
Here is our factsheet about wolves, and our factsheet about bears. Britain is not currently in a position to discuss viable reintroductions of these species. We need to focus on habitat restoration, and future generations can then have these conversations.
We refer to Britain as a geographical entity, not a political entity. This contiguous land mass includes England, Scotland and Wales. Nature needs space to grow and do its own thing regardless of state boundaries. It doesn’t recognise borders. However, politics does matter. Three administrations are in charge of the policies that influence land use across Britain – the UK government, and the devolved Scottish and Welsh governments. We will work with all governments, regardless of political persuasion, to make the case for rewilding and to improve nature across the whole of Britain. (We support rewilding in Northern Ireland and Ireland, but with our limited resources we’re focused on making change happen across the landmass of Britain.)
Flooding is a natural part of a river’s annual cycle but problems occur when land is overgrazed, rivers are straightened, and trees and wildlife removed. Such measures reduce the capacity of the landscape to absorb excess water and slow flood water flows.
Flooding costs the UK economy more than £1 billion annually – a figure that rises to nearer £5 billion in a bad year. Traditional approaches to flood defence have focused on managing flood risk using hard defences such as floodwalls and river revetments. While mitigating some of the worst consequences of flooding, these do little to challenge underlying causes – and when they fail, the consequences can be devastating.
Managing flood risk naturally through rewilding can be cheaper and more sustainable. Rewilding can substantially reduce flood risk downstream, protecting communities at a fraction of the cost of traditional flood defences. Rewilding can also improve water quality and stimulate the revival of vibrant ecosystems rich in wildlife. It has the additional benefit of creating healthy natural landscapes that can stimulate tourism and ecological awareness, while soaking up greater quantities of carbon. Read our full report here.
Rewilding is part of the big picture for maintaining the health of the planet. If we can rewild degraded landscapes while preventing continued destruction of wildlife and habitats, we have a chance to reverse ecological decline and tackle climate change. That will benefit us all.
At a local level, people are key to rewilding – to make it happen and to enjoy its benefits. We want to enthuse, inspire and inform people of all ages and from all walks of life. Rewilding brings nature back to life in a way that should excite people, helping connect us with nature – to find peace or adventure, relax or re-energise, explore or rest. Numerous studies show the power of nature in boosting people’s health and wellbeing. It should be a fundamental part of children’s growing up.
Rewilding can also produce economic benefits and support communities. In Scotland, otters, deer, puffins and sea eagles already support a growing nature tourism economy – ospreys alone bring in an estimated £3.5 million a year. A pair of ospreys breeding at Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust’s Cors Dyfi reserve in Wales draws in around £350,000 a year. People visiting Finland to see brown bear and wolverine boosted the economy by €4-5 million in 2012. The reintroduction of griffon and cinereous vultures has been attracting 80,000 visitors each year to France. You can read more about people and rewilding here.
Any activity which “kick starts” the restoration of natural processes can be considered to be a natural intervention. Commonplace rewilding interventions include:
● Significant reduction or complete removal of certain non-native grazing animals, particularly sheep
● Temporary installation of fencing to allow natural regeneration of vegetation; removal of fencing to allow free roaming animals
● River restoration, wetland creation, peat bog restoration
● Tree planting, tree seeding and allowance of natural regeneration
● Reintroduction of formerly native species, e.g. beaver, pine marten, white-tailed eagle
● Introduction of a mix of small numbers of suitable rare breed cattle, pigs and ponies, when large native grazing animals are absent
● Reintroduction of woody debris into stream channels
● Removal of infrastructure which is preventing natural process recovery, e.g. artificial obstructions on watercourses, tile drainage systems
So are we! This isn’t about conservationists versus farmers. We all need food but we also all need a thriving and habitable planet. Let’s work together to make this possible. It’s important to be aware that the world currently grows around double the number of calories needed to feed everyone.
We have allocated too much land to agriculture and in Britain this has led to poor quality agricultural land being used for farming when it can serve a much better purpose. Our ancestors understood this and many areas were left unfarmed so that effort could be put into the high yield sites. We have the resources to fix this problem.
If you are a landowner, you can read about land management options on our Rewilding Network. If you don’t own any land but would love to get involved in a project, you can look up the projects we know about on our Rewilding Network map.
You can also donate so that we can continue to spread the word and help support the landowners wishing to make real change.
No. We’re a small charity operating on a small income from supporters and funders. But we are working with a broad range of partners – including farmers and landowners – to develop new nature-based economies that allow rural communities to thrive. We also call for government policies that offer financial rewards and support for farmers who want to farm in a more nature-friendly way – including payments for public goods and funding from a ‘polluter pays’ Domestic Carbon Trading Emissions system.
We’re not a land-owning organisation. We work in collaboration to support others involved with large scale rewilding projects. We aim to convince existing landowners and land managers that rewilding is the right thing for them to do – for the future of their own economy and environment.
I have a rewilding question that I’ve not found an answer to, can you help?
Of course, we’d love to chat! You can email us, send us a tweet or leave a message on our Facebook. Thank you for your interest in our work.
Main image: Common otter — James Warwick/Wildscreen