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Why we need rewilding

Rewilding can help reverse species extinction, tackle climate change and improve our overall health and wellbeing
Why rewilding SBP Neil Mc Intyre

15% of species in Britain are threatened with extinction

Today nature in Britain is in serious trouble. More than half of our species are in decline and 15% is threatened with extinction. We’ve already hunted all of our top predators to extinction. Native woodlands cover a mere 2.5% of our land. Life has been torn from our seas to meet unsustainable demand.

Conservation has worked hard for decades, with passion and dedication, to save wildlife. But it’s time to move beyond saving certain species and patches of nature. Rewilding takes a big picture approach, aiming to restore the wider natural processes that support life (for example, grazing, flooding, natural woodland regeneration). It complements existing conservation work and those sectors seeking a better way forward for nature including regenerative farming, marine protection, low impact silviculture, nature tourism and so on.

Nature is a part of us. It’s our life support system: the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, the energy that sustains us. We can’t live without it. All plant and animal species play a role. When they disappear, when we disturb natural processes, our life support system starts to stutter and fail. 

Climate chaos and the species extinction crisis are two catastrophic examples. They are symptoms of our disconnection from nature, the result of actions over centuries that have, unwittingly but sometimes knowingly, undermined our very ability to survive. If we thought we could unshackle ourselves from the source of life, we can’t. We thrive only if nature thrives. 

Rewilding is an attempt to reconnect and reset, to reverse species extinction and to help nature flourish on a large scale. It is a chance to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. Our lives depend on behaving differently and embracing nature. We must think big and act wild.

Benefits of rewilding

Draws down carbon from the atmosphere

We calculate that restoring and protecting native woodland, peatbogs, heaths and species-rich grasslands over a total of six million hectares could sequester 47 million tonnes of CO2 per year. This is more than a tenth of current UK greenhouse gas emissions. Read our Rewilding and Climate Breakdown report.

Helps wildlife adapt to climate change

Rewilding key areas and connecting them up through a mosaic of nature-rich habitats will allow wildlife to move and habitats to adapt as climate zones shift north. This has the potential to save a significant number of species from climate driven decline or extinction.

Reverses biodiversity loss

Rewilding marks a change in direction, moving from continued managed decline to restoring the abundance of Britain’s wildlife and its missing species. We know nature will bounce back on land and in seas, rivers and lakes, but only if we take the right actions to help it.

Supports diversified economic opportunities

Rewilding has the potential to help rural and coastal communities prosper through nature-based enterprises, production and employment opportunities. This won’t just happen but will take imagination and coordinated local action to realise.

Improves our health and wellbeing

More nature is better for all of us, providing us with clean water, flood defences, food, healthy soils, breathable air, and good health. It’s important that we work to ensure everyone has access to wilder nature, even in our urban areas.


Main image: Crested tit in pine wood — Neil McIntyre/scotlandbigpicture.com

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