Rewilding and habitat restoration

Discussions about serious topics, for serious people
Post Reply
User avatar
Fishnut
Dorkwood
Posts: 1075
Joined: Mon Nov 11, 2019 1:15 pm
Location: UK

Rewilding and habitat restoration

Post by Fishnut » Thu Apr 01, 2021 2:47 pm

I'm doing some investigation on rewilding for a piece I'm writing and was hoping I might be able to get some help with the background research. I'm highly dubious about the impact of a lot of the rewilding schemes I see around the country - plonking a bunch of twigs on the edge of a park and calling it rewilding seems to be, at best, false advertising.

I'd really appreciate help with the following:

- Any good examples of rewilding done right (anywhere in the world, but temperate climate preferred for comparability);

- Info on the sort of scale it needs to be done on to be successful;

- Info on how much of a 'kick-start' the habitat needs to rewild. It seems that the idea is to leave things to nature as much as possible, but I can't work out if that just means leaving things alone and letting nature get on with recolonising, planting a few trees to nudge things in the right direction, or creating a full habitat to get ecological succession occurring as quickly as possible;

- Any legitimate concerns about rewilding.

Obviously I'm doing my own research for this but I figured I might as well see if there were any nuggets of info hiding in the brains of you lot that you'd be willing to share :D
it's okay to say "I don't know"

User avatar
Bird on a Fire
Light of Blast
Posts: 5465
Joined: Fri Oct 11, 2019 5:05 pm
Location: nadir of brie

Re: Rewilding and habitat restoration

Post by Bird on a Fire » Thu Apr 01, 2021 3:50 pm

Great topic!

A quick reply as I'm half-listening to a conference right now ;) but maybe gives a head start with some case studies.

I think rewilding is a useful concept that's much abused. It's really a functional definition, not just restoring a habitat but the processses that maintain it - using herbivores to manage vegetation, for instance, and using predators to manage herbivores, rather than close-order management by humans.

Canonical examples would be Oostvaardersplassen in the Netherlands, really the first place to try re-wilding in Europe (for me, the "re" bit implies restoring lost species, or at least ±functionally equivalent livestock). In the UK, the Knepp Estate in Sussex is having amazing success restoring populations of priority species like Turtle Dove and Purple Emperor, with results that piss all over decades of intensively-managed postage-stamp reserves. It's been a bit controversial, especially their enthusiasm for reintroducing things like White Storks. But Wilding by Isabella Tree (co-owner of Knepp) is probably the best book on rewilding I've read. See also Feral by George Monbiot.

Another good example is the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park in the USA. There were issues with the native herbivores overgrazing, so wolves were introduced. This forces the herbivores into a kind of cat-and-mouse game, where they can't stick in the same place for too long and overgraze it, but instead move about, creating a heterogeneous mosaic of different habitats. (See the "landscape of fear" concept).

Really I think rewilding has to be at scale. A bunch of cows in a field isn't rewilding. A diverse suite of herbivore spp ranging over a landscape might be. A pile of sticks might be locally useful for invertebrates but it's a ridiculous abuse of the term.
He has the grace of a swan, the wisdom of an owl, and the eye of an eagle—ladies and gentlemen, this man is for the birds!

bmforre
Snowbonk
Posts: 426
Joined: Mon Nov 11, 2019 1:15 pm
Location: Trondheim

Re: Rewilding and habitat restoration

Post by bmforre » Thu Apr 01, 2021 4:39 pm

Chernobyl surrounding areas?

User avatar
Bird on a Fire
Light of Blast
Posts: 5465
Joined: Fri Oct 11, 2019 5:05 pm
Location: nadir of brie

Re: Rewilding and habitat restoration

Post by Bird on a Fire » Thu Apr 01, 2021 4:51 pm

bmforre wrote:
Thu Apr 01, 2021 4:39 pm
Chernobyl surrounding areas?
A fair point - it's not been done deliberately, but certainly counts as a rewilded. And, like other rewilded areas, also contains enormous populations of lots of threatened species.

Given that it's a radioactive exclusion zone full of crumbling urban infrastructure it's kind of embarrassing how much more successful it's been at bolstering wildlife than a lot of deliberate conservation initiatives.

Other examples are given in the book World Without Us by Alan Weisman https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/248 ... Without_Us
He has the grace of a swan, the wisdom of an owl, and the eye of an eagle—ladies and gentlemen, this man is for the birds!

User avatar
jimbob
After Pie
Posts: 2331
Joined: Mon Nov 11, 2019 4:04 pm
Location: High Peak/Manchester

Re: Rewilding and habitat restoration

Post by jimbob » Thu Apr 01, 2021 7:24 pm

Dean Morrison, who is a member here, and I think scrutineers Facebook group has been involved with the Knapp estate rewilding.
Have you considered stupidity as an explanation

User avatar
Martin_B
Catbabel
Posts: 773
Joined: Mon Nov 11, 2019 1:20 pm
Location: Perth, WA

Re: Rewilding and habitat restoration

Post by Martin_B » Fri Apr 02, 2021 1:16 am

I recall watching a programme on rewilding in the Murray-Darling river system where old marsh areas had been drained and used for forestry, and have now been rewilded back to marshland. I'm not sure if it's this one: https://www.foreground.com.au/agricultu ... -wetlands/ because it doesn't seem to match my (possibly hazy) recollections; there may be multiple rewilding projects.
"My interest is in the future, because I'm going to spend the rest of my life there"

bmforre
Snowbonk
Posts: 426
Joined: Mon Nov 11, 2019 1:15 pm
Location: Trondheim

Re: Rewilding and habitat restoration

Post by bmforre » Sun Apr 04, 2021 2:19 pm

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Thu Apr 01, 2021 4:51 pm
Given that it's a radioactive exclusion zone full of crumbling urban infrastructure it's kind of embarrassing how much more successful it's been at bolstering wildlife than a lot of deliberate conservation initiatives.
Bats take over brewery vaults.

Very interesting report in Frankfurter Allgemeine, in German, of a longtime deserted brewery that is used by thousands of bats as winter quarters. This started in East German times and civil authorities have shifted but bats hang on.

User avatar
sTeamTraen
After Pie
Posts: 1704
Joined: Mon Nov 11, 2019 4:24 pm
Location: Palma de Mallorca, Spain

Re: Rewilding and habitat restoration

Post by sTeamTraen » Sun Apr 04, 2021 7:54 pm

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Thu Apr 01, 2021 3:50 pm
Canonical examples would be Oostvaardersplassen in the Netherlands, really the first place to try re-wilding in Europe (for me, the "re" bit implies restoring lost species, or at least ±functionally equivalent livestock).
There's a social/political dimension to the Oostvaardersplassen. People have been observing that in a wild environment, some animals that humans traditionally consider attractive (e.g., horses) end up on the wrong side of the "red in tooth and claw" thing, and have taken to breaking into the park to feed them. They have accused the people who manage the area of deliberate animal cruelty, some individuals have received death threats, etc. I doubt if this was taken into account when the project was started, but it would seem to be something that any person, collective, or government that is considering such a scheme might want to think about.

The Animal Rights Party has six seats (4% of the total) in the lower house of the Dutch parliament and was potentially headed for 10 seats at one point in polls not too far before the last elections.
Something something hammer something something nail

User avatar
dyqik
Stummy Beige
Posts: 3546
Joined: Wed Sep 25, 2019 4:19 pm
Location: Masshole
Contact:

Re: Rewilding and habitat restoration

Post by dyqik » Tue Apr 06, 2021 12:55 am

On longer timescales, a lot of the conversation areas around New England are secondary forest that were abandoned as farmland when agriculture moved westward in the early 20th century. There's some attempt to manage invasives like oriental bittersweet, multiflora rose and norway maple, but the areas are largely abandoned. Fieldstone walls show where the farmland used to be.

Another area near me is a former WWII ammunition dump/supply site, which is now a national wildlife refuge. Again, to its managed to some degree, (closing off trails in some areas to reduce the impact of hikers) and there dogs are banned to encourage other carnivores, like coyotes, etc.

There's almost certainly literature about the effectiveness of these. The native plant trust might be one local source of information.

In the unmanaged category, there are several acres behind my house which are town owned land, a former tree and pig farm "gifted" to the town in 60's when it couldn't be developed for a town high school or housing due to wetlands on it. It's basically abandoned, and we had to pay to control invasives on the boundary of it against our property line. Now we go a hundred feet or so into it every spring to spray glyphosate on invasive bittersweet, to prevent it killing trees that eventually fall on our garage.

User avatar
dyqik
Stummy Beige
Posts: 3546
Joined: Wed Sep 25, 2019 4:19 pm
Location: Masshole
Contact:

Re: Rewilding and habitat restoration

Post by dyqik » Tue Apr 06, 2021 1:15 am

Wildlife in these range from beavers to white tailed deer, plus the occasional moose or black bear. None of these were extinct here exactly, but they were very rare and have mostly migrated back here over the century or so.

Beavers in particular have recently been allowed to get on with things in wide areas, leading to large areas of swamp filled with dead trees that have essentially drowned due to beaver dams being allowed to stand.

User avatar
dyqik
Stummy Beige
Posts: 3546
Joined: Wed Sep 25, 2019 4:19 pm
Location: Masshole
Contact:

Re: Rewilding and habitat restoration

Post by dyqik » Tue Apr 06, 2021 1:19 am

https://newildernesstrust.org/ is one possible resource

User avatar
science_fox
Fuzzable
Posts: 242
Joined: Mon Nov 11, 2019 1:34 pm
Location: Manchester

Re: Rewilding and habitat restoration

Post by science_fox » Tue Apr 06, 2021 10:08 am

I was going to put this in the motorsport thread but maybe here is as relevant - https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episodes/ ... /extreme-e Extreme-E where they've set up a championship to highlight/preserve vulnerable ecosystems through the means of driving all over them.

The aim is to leave it untouched after they've finished racing and install legacy programs to help recovery. So far the only mention has been the throwaway comment that the tire tracks (in the saudia desert) will 'fill in with windblown sand' which doesn't seem like the most responsible possible option, and does nothing for all the "brush" that had been stabilising the sand until they got driven on - the loss of such plants being, in my limited understanding, one of the factors helping deserts to spread. The program has the explicit aim of preventing this.

User avatar
jimbob
After Pie
Posts: 2331
Joined: Mon Nov 11, 2019 4:04 pm
Location: High Peak/Manchester

Re: Rewilding and habitat restoration

Post by jimbob » Tue Apr 06, 2021 1:50 pm

That does seem counterproductive
Have you considered stupidity as an explanation

monkey
Snowbonk
Posts: 470
Joined: Wed Nov 13, 2019 5:10 pm

Re: Rewilding and habitat restoration

Post by monkey » Tue Apr 06, 2021 2:51 pm

science_fox wrote:
Tue Apr 06, 2021 10:08 am
I was going to put this in the motorsport thread but maybe here is as relevant - https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episodes/ ... /extreme-e Extreme-E where they've set up a championship to highlight/preserve vulnerable ecosystems through the means of driving all over them.

The aim is to leave it untouched after they've finished racing and install legacy programs to help recovery. So far the only mention has been the throwaway comment that the tire tracks (in the saudia desert) will 'fill in with windblown sand' which doesn't seem like the most responsible possible option, and does nothing for all the "brush" that had been stabilising the sand until they got driven on - the loss of such plants being, in my limited understanding, one of the factors helping deserts to spread. The program has the explicit aim of preventing this.
That isn't the only thing that hasn't been thought through very well.

Post Reply