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Rewilding Can Help Save the Planet—If It’s Done Properly

As calls to prevent climate change become more urgent, rewilding has become an important conservation effort. Here's what it is, how it works, and why it matters.

Written by
Kristine Nguyen

More than ever before, there's been an urgent call for the large scale revival of our ecosystems. According to the Global Footprint Network, humans are using roughly 1.6 times the resources that nature can sustainably renew every single year. That means, we need to restore a majority of the resources we're currently using. How do we do that? Conservation efforts such as rewilding.

What Is Rewilding?

In the early 1990s, the term "rewilding" was coined by Dave Foreman, co-founder of Wild Earth magazine and The Wildlands Project. Rewilding is a conservation effort that drives environmental restoration by increasing biodiversity and rebuilding ecosystems so they're healthier and more sustainable. It often focuses on the apex predators—wolves, crocodiles, sharks, and salmon—and other species that need wild space the most.

What Are the Benefits of Rewilding?

There are a few different benefits of rewilding. Not only does it restore ecosystems, but it also helps mitigate climate change by increasing carbon removal and reducing soil erosion and flood risk, says the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Another benefit of rewilding is that it protects endangered species and aids in wildlife adaptation.

Humans can also benefit. Rewilding Britain states rewilding can help support rural and coastal communities through nature-based enterprises and career opportunities. In addition, it provides cleaner water, healthy soils, and more breathable air.

How Is Rewilding Done?

Rewilding can be done in many different ways, and which way you choose depends on which issues you're trying to resolve.

1. Bringing Back Certain Species

A popular way of rewilding is by reintroducing species that are missing in their ecosystems. These species play a crucial role in filling the gaps in the environment and bringing balance back to their homes. Apex predators like wolves and cougars are especially important to reintroduce back into their habitats because they regulate ecosystems and prevent overpopulation of other species.

2. Removing Barriers

Another way of rewilding is by removing manmade dams and other barriers, so that fish can move more freely in the water. Removing these barriers also restores the natural processes of erosion and deposition.

3. Connecting Spaces Together

Wildlife crossings, bridges, and overpasses are often used in rewilding to protect the animals and prevent habitat fragmentation. By restoring the network between these habitats, wildlife can disperse more naturally. They're also an effective way for animals to move from place to place without possibly being harmed by humans.

The Takeaway

In some cases, relatively simple actions can be taken to preserve and protect wildlife—like enacting legal protection and stopping illegal fishing and hunting. Other times, it's a little more complicated.

Properly managed rewilding is key. The International Union for Conservation of Nature stresses the need to consider ecological, economic, and societal issues in the development of rewilding initiatives. That way, our rewilding efforts are helpful to both the people and the animals that make up those communities.

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