The rewilding debate is as twisty and tangled as an ancient wood and different opinions abound as to the true definition of rewilding. Some believe it is defined by wild spaces that are completely devoid of management. Others think wild spaces would be better restored if humans lend a helping hand, reversing some of their damage before standing back and allowing nature to take over. As a word it is hotly contested and controversial. As a concept, whatever your stance, the fundamental principles are ubiquitous. Rewilding is a restoration of large areas of managed land into uncultivated land, where natural processes are allowed a free reign as opposed to rigorous management.
Key to rewilding is the idea of letting natural processes take over, allowing nature to uncoil unhampered by human over-interference, a diverse, fluid, living landscape shielded from over management. Wilderness areas that will return landscapes to places of ecological diversity, ruled by their own processes, shaped by nature as opposed to a pre-determined human plan.
Why rewilding then? Ecosystems are built upon what are known as trophic cascades. Trophic cascades are extremely complex processes that determine the route of energy flow through an ecosystem, involving myriad animal and plant species and linking animals at the top of the food chain to species at the bottom. Ecologists in recent years have been discovering that disruption to a trophic cascade can have huge impacts on the ecosystem. Too much human interference upsets their balance and the altering the dynamics of a single species can ricochet through the entire ecosystem, wreaking havoc on wildlife and landscapes.
However, restoration of more balanced trophic cascades can result in improved ecological richness. This can be achieved by ceasing damaging land practices, letting natural processes resume, introducing native species back into places where they have become extirpated, and in some cases mitigating the effects of invasive species. The reintroduction of ‘keystone’ species, many of which are now missing from our ecosystems, can help restore trophic cascades to an even keel. Beavers, for example, are a keystone species and contribute to increasing wildlife in river systems, reducing flooding and improving water quality.
Large carnivores, or apex predators, are an important part of trophic webs, their influence at the top of the food chain cascading down and driving ecosystems. Lynx, a natural control to roe deer, is one of these apex predators. Predators tend to be the most controversial in rewilding debate, and extensive research and widespread support would be essential before reintroduction could be considered. Introduction of large carnivores is well outside of the scope of Cambrian Wildwood, and we consider that the Cambrian Mountains, with a predominance of livestock farming, is unsuited to such a programme.
The rewilding process transcends landscapes and extends to people. In rewilded spaces people can enjoy the restorative, spiritually fulfilling effects of communion with the wild, in biodiverse pockets of nature in all its splendour, areas of land far removed from the long reach of man. Spaces that inspire people to care for this land we all share, fostering a need to protect and conserve our beautiful earth. This is important, and in our ecologically worrying times, has never been more urgent.
What we hope to achieve at Cambrian Wildwood is one of these such places. A place where nature and human spirit can both roam free, dreaming their own dreams away from the indefatigable buzz of modern society. A place that returns wealth to the landscape and enchantment to the people who visit it. A place where the cares of the workaday world can be hung on a tree on your way in, forgotten about for a while as you wander, and wonder through a truly wild space.
Click here for a more detailed exploration of rewilding.
See Wildland Network for information and resources on wildland and rewilding.
Some excellent books on rewilding:
- Beyond Conservation: a wildland strategy, by Peter Taylor (2005). Available from Routledge or Amazon
- Rewilding: ECOS writings on wildland and conservation values, edited by Peter Taylor (2011). Available from British Association of Nature Conservationists
- Feral: Searching for enchantment on the frontiers of rewilding, by George Monbiot (2013). See reviews and summary Available from Amazon