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Does the Return of the Wolf Help Rewilding? Maybe Not

Friday, August 26, 2016   (0 Comments)
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Koen Arts
Forest and Nature Conservation Policy Group
Wageningen University
The Netherlands

Typically, species reintroductions and rewilding of natural areas are thought of as complementary ingredients of ecological restoration. However, recent work conducted at the University of Aberdeen and the James Hutton Institute finds that reintroduction of animals may sit at odds with the agenda of rewilding.

When Koen Arts, lead author of the study, and his colleagues looked at the hypothetical case of wolves being reintroduced to Scotland, they found a reintroduction programme can potentially undermine key principles of rewilding, which include wilderness experiences, ecological functioning, and natural autonomy.

“Consider, for instance, that rewilding initiatives generally promote a hands-off management approach,” says Arts. “When analysing the likely implications of a future wolf reintroducing to Scotland, intensive, long-term management will be needed to counter potential conflict. Such management undercuts the central message of rewilding.”

The authors suggest that there needs to be a change in how discussions are approached by those in favour of rewilding and reintroduction. Different rewilding elements do not necessarily enforce each other, and at times may even collide. A novel approach would be to actively engage with the tensions created by rewilding and reintroductions.

“We propose to interpret ecological restoration as a tentative, deliberative, and gradual enterprise. This bears some resemblance to the idea of looking at a landscape like a ‘palimpsest’ (i.e. a text built up of different layers written on top of each other), which may accommodate opposing views without necessarily making conflict disappear.”

Arts and colleagues state that by approaching ecological restoration as a ‘palimpsest enterprise’, animal reintroduction and rewilding can more easily be promoted as inspiring and essentially non-controlling forms of ecological restoration and human interaction with nature.



Restoration Ecology, 24: 27-34 Boundaries of the wolf and the wild: A conceptual examination of the relationship between rewilding and animal reintroduction. Koen Arts, Anke Fischer and René van der Wal (2016)

About Restoration Ecology

Restoration Ecology is the Society’s bi-monthly scientific and technical peer-reviewed journal published Edited by a distinguished international panel, the journal addresses global concerns and communicates them to researchers and practitioners throughout the world

About SER

The Society for Ecological Restoration is an international non-profit organization dedicated to promoting ecological restoration as a means of sustaining the diversity of life on Earth and re-establishing an ecologically healthy relationship between nature and culture.

Marguerite Nutter
Membership and Communications Director
Society for Ecological Restoration
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