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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Rewilding Celebrates Surge in Growth and Range

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New figures show that rewilding in Britain has experienced a surge of growth in the last three years, demonstrating its increasing popularity and accessibility as a positive solution for tackling the climate and biodiversity emergencies. 

Figures released by charity Rewilding Britain for World Rewilding Day (20 March) reveal that the Rewilding Network, a network of rewilding practitioners supported by Rewilding Britain, has smashed its growth targets by over 20% since it was launched in 2021.

When launching the Network, Rewilding Britain aimed to catalyse and support the rewilding of at least 121,406 hectares of land, plus marine areas, within three years.

Latest figures show that the Rewilding Network is now close to 1,000 members strong, and together these practitioners are working on actively rewilding 155,248 hectares of land – an area larger than the North York Moors National Park – plus 506km2 of seabed.

Based on a sample of 58 Network sites, around three quarters are a mix of public land, community projects, eNGOs and farms, with one quarter being large estates. 

“The rapid growth of the Rewilding Network, and the wide range of exciting and inspiring projects involved, offers a real story of hope for reversing nature loss and addressing climate breakdown, while creating a wealth of benefits for people,” said Rewilding Britain CEO Rebecca Wrigley. 

“It’s a major step forward in helping achieve Rewilding Britain’s vision of a mosaic of species-rich habitats restored and connected across at least 30% of Britain’s land and sea by 2030.

“Communities, innovative partnerships, charities, pioneering landowners and farmers showing how nature recovery and food production go hand-in-hand are among those leading the way and highlighting just what’s possible if we work together and Think Big, Act Wild!” 

Community-led rewilding projects are particularly inspiring, demonstrating the power communities have to influence the future recovery of the land on which they live.

One such member of the Rewilding Network is the Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST), a charity whose work has resulted in a stunning recovery of marine habitats around Arran and the Clyde on Scotland’s west coast. 

Set up in 1995 to combat the destruction of Arran’s marine habitats and decline of fish stocks due to trawling and dredging, COAST was responsible for the establishment, in 2008, of Scotland’s first No Take Zone in Lamlash Bay, completely protecting the waters, seabed and inhabitants from all forms of fishing.

Today, this No Take Zone sits within the South Arran Marine Protected Area, legally established in 2016, and together these reserves are boosting sea and community life.

Studies have shown that marine life has returned at dramatic levels in these waters.

King scallop density, for example, has increased by over 850% in the Marine Protected Area since protection measures were brought in. 

“Today, it’s easy to see what has been done in Lamlash Bay as a form of marine rewilding.

“Fundamentally, it’s about reducing human impact, learning to live in balance and harmony with the environment and letting nature be nature,” said Áine Purcell-Milton, Executive Director of COAST. 

“As we navigate through the twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change, there’s no better time to collaborate, learn and strengthen relationships built through the Rewilding Network.

“Looking ahead, we envision land and seascapes where nature thrives, communities prosper, and hope reignites.

“Together, let us continue to champion rewilding as a beacon of hope for a brighter, wilder future.”  

One of the pioneering projects in the Rewilding Network is the Knepp Estate, a groundbreaking rewilding project in West Sussex.

Knepp has inspired dozens of rewilding projects by showing what’s possible when you let nature take the lead on a large scale. 

This natural process-led ethos using free-roaming grazers, like cattle and ponies, to create a mosaic of habitats has resulted in an extraordinary increase of wildlife on the estate.

Extremely rare species such as turtle doves, nightingales, peregrine falcons and purple emperor butterflies are now breeding on site, and populations of more common species are rocketing.

Using lessons learned from the rewilding of the Knepp Estate, the Knepp Wildland Foundation was founded to catalyse nature recovery across Sussex and beyond, and provide the evidence, knowledge and inspiration to support nature recovery at scale.

The Foundation forms part of the pioneering Weald to Waves nature corridor, which is establishing a 100-mile corridor connecting  20,000+ hectares of habitats from historic High Weald forests through nature-rich farmland and the South Downs National Park, along restored rivers to revived seas. 

“Britain is moving into an exhilarating era of nature recovery,” said Libby Drew, Director of Knepp Wildland Foundation. 

“Across the country, communities and councils, farmers and financiers, educators and ecologists are working in tandem to revive our damaged landscapes and broken ecosystems.

“This is critical work, requiring bigger ambition, better strategies and more joined up thinking.

“As a member of the Rewilding Network, we are part of a hive of organisations working to recover lost species, restore and reconnect natural habitats, and foster a new generation of young leaders.” 

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