Critically acclaimed author George Monbiot and inspiring conservationist Alan Featherstone discussed the restoration of the natural world in a presentation entitled “Rewilding” during Edinburgh World Justice Festival 2014. The concept of rewilding suggests A. reintroduction of keystone species into their old familiar territories coupled with B. stepping back and allowing rejuvenation to occur.
Extraordinary success has been proven in Yellowstone National Park with the 1995 reintroduction of the wolf resulting in what Monbiot terms a “trophic cascade”. With the arrival of the wolf, populations of deer were predictably reduced but unexpected life-giving consequences were astonishing. With less deer grazing on vegetation there was rejuvenation of Aspen, Willow and Cottonwood. With these new habitats came new life including songbirds, beavers which created haunts for otters, muskrats, ducks, fish, reptiles and amphibians. Wolves also killed coyotes which meant more rabbits, mice, foxes, badgers, weasels and hawks. Ravens and bald eagles were seen dining on carrion while bears were nourished by the abundant berry bushes. This explosion of flora also created another unexpected result; more stable ground which ceased erosion, changing and improving the conditions of the rivers. Monbiot has an eye for the interconnected nature of things.
His indomitable passion for rewilding was awakened by an extraordinary encounter with bottlenose dolphins whilst kayaking in extreme conditions in Cardigan Bay, Wales and so he also reflects upon the ocean environment. He speaks of the notion of the Japanese fishing industry removing whales in order to create more fish for humans. What is proven is that removing the whale decreases populations of plankton in the photic zone significantly which of course has a negative knock-on effect on the entire ecosystem. What’s more, Monbiot points out, without the largest mammals on our plant moving the smallest microorganisms around in the water column, which happen to absorb carbon dioxide, the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere would be profoundly altered.
What Monbiot is talking about is not the creation of nature reserves but the inclusion of native species in native territories, taking a step back, allowing rejuvenation and being mesmerised by the beauty of connecting with true wild nature. Watch out for the formation of a new charity early 2015 called Rewilding Britain.
By Amy Ferguson