Press release: How best to restore nature: researchers call to rethink rewilding
No. 67 - 26.04.2019
Team of scientists with participation from the University of Göttingen analyses rewilding interventions
Regardless of whether the landscape is made up of individual floodplains or entire national parks, the success of rewilding projects does not just depend on whether individual plant or animal species are reintroduced into an area. As an international team of researchers, including the University of Göttingen, shows, it is more a matter of helping the damaged ecosystem to regenerate and conserve itself. The team, led by Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig, shows how restoration measures can be better planned and implemented - and the benefits this can have for people. The results have been published in the journal Science.
The construction of cities, roads or factories as well as intensive agriculture have severely affected nature worldwide. As a result, entire ecosystems have been destroyed, resulting in a continuous decline in biodiversity. "As a result, many ecosystems are no longer able to perform important tasks such as flood regulation," says Professor Henrique Pereira of MLU and iDiv. For several decades now, there have been projects worldwide that aim to bring certain regions back into line with nature. A recognised approach is known as “Rewilding”. " Rewilding focuses on the ecosystem as a whole and attempts to restore its functionality through targeted measures, allowing the ecosystem to sustain itself with little or no human management," explains first author Andrea Perino, who is working on her doctorate in Pereira's working group. At the same time, rewilding also serves to make the aesthetic and intangible value of nature accessible to people.
"Promoting natural processes by facilitating more wilderness in our intensively used cultural landscapes is a fascinating but also socially controversial approach," says co-author Professor Plieninger from the Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development at the University of Göttingen. In the study, he contributed to the discussion of the social consequences of rewilding. "The Science study points the way to a future-oriented design of 'rewilding' models that also take into account the different interests of everyone concerned. A prominent example of a successful rewilding project in Germany is the Oder Delta, a region on the Baltic coast between Germany and Poland on the Szczecin Lagoon. Numerous animals, such as white-tailed eagles, bison and beavers, live here in the wild. A vibrant nature tourism industry has developed in the area in recent years.
In their study, the researchers present a kind of blueprint for how rewilding projects can be planned and implemented. They call for a shift of perspective: there is no one ideal ecosystem that can be created by specific interventions. Instead, it is much more important to consider the functions of the respective ecosystem, analyse the disturbances in this system and derive a range of suitable measures from that. In a floodplain landscape, for example, dams could be removed that are no longer needed, thereby resubmerging at least part of the landscape. This could create a habitat for animals and plants that had previously been displaced by humans.
Original publication: Perino A. et al. Rewilding complex ecosystems. Science (2019). doi: https://science.sciencemag.org/content/364/6438/eaav5570
Professor Tobias Plieninger
University of Göttingen
Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development
Platz der Göttinger Sieben 5
Telefon: +49 (0)551 3921148