What are the concerns?
As a relatively recent concept, with most projects still in infancy, questions over where, how, and if, rewilding should be done has been a topic of intense debate. The largely unproven benefits, and difficulties over monitoring have exacerbated these concerns. Key points of contention include:
- Ecological risk. Introducing (non-native) species potentially from abroad, risks bringing in disease or unintended interactions within local environments.
- Socio-economic cost. In preventing the development of productive farmland, rewilding represents an opportunity cost for farmers and landowners. This also raises environmental concerns given this could increase reliance upon carbon-intensive imports to feed a growing population in the UK.
- Commerciality. If the rewilded land is used for commercial activity such as tourism and local business, there is the risk that incentives begin to deviate. This could involve greenwashing and unsustainable business practice.
- Conflict. Land management projects tend to involve a wide-range of stakeholders, including tourists, farmers, environmentalists, hunters, entrepreneurs, and local residents. Competing interests can cause socio-political issues in discussions upon application and monitoring.
Where next for rewilding?
Going forwards, rewilding organizations aim to scale up projects as quickly as possible. In the UK, Rewilding Britain aims to rewild at least 5% of total land. To achieve this ‘amplification process’, experts intend to:
- Educate. Provide support, knowledge, and expertise to landowners and foresters.
- Network. Develop global networks with scientists, academics, and policymakers via the Rewilding Network.
- Communicate. Develop communications and marketing material to engage the public, government, and private sector.
- Pressure. Target the European Commission to develop legislation which advocates and supports rewilding processes.
Rewilding and tree planting Health.
Opposing or complementary?
There are varied perspectives as to if and how rewilding and tree planting should interact. Some environmentalists perceive the two as opposing conservation techniques given that tree planting can be considered to curtail the natural dynamics within a wild space, and in doing so, limit ecosystem diversity and richness . However, most environmental organisations consider tree planting as a complementary, and often necessary support mechanism to rewilding, especially at early stages of development . While natural regeneration is often a sustainable way to build ecosystem resilience, structural support from tree planting and vegetation clearing can be highly beneficial to facilitating and maintaining healthy woodland growth.