POST - Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology

Rewilding and Ecosystem Services

Published Thursday, September 29, 2016

This POSTnote explores the consequences of increasing the role of natural processes within landscapes. Evidence from the UK and abroad suggests that rewilding can benefit both wildlife and local people, but animal reintroductions could adversely affect some land-users.

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There is no single definition of rewilding, but it generally refers to reinstating natural processes that would have occurred in the absence of human activity. In the long term, self regulating natural processes may reduce the need for human management, but in some circumstances human interventions may be needed to kick-start natural processes, such as tree planting, drainage blocking and reintroducing "keystone species" like beavers.

Key points in this POSTnote include:

  • Rewilding aims to restore natural processes that are self-regulating, reducing the need for human management of land.
  • Few rewilding projects are underway, and there is limited evidence on their impacts.
  • Rewilding may provide ecosystem services such as flood prevention, carbon storage and recreation. It often has low input costs, but can still benefit biodiversity.
  • Some valued and protected priority habitats such as chalk grassland currently depend on agricultural practices like grazing. Rewilding may not result in such habitats.
  • No government policy refers explicitly to rewilding, but it has the potential to complement existing approaches to meet commitments on habitat restoration.

Acknowledgements

POSTnotes are based on literature reviews and interviews with a range of stakeholders and are externally peer reviewed. POST would like to thank interviewees and peer reviewers for kindly giving up their time during the preparation of this briefing, including:

  • Lloyd Austin, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds*
  • Professor Andrew Balmford FRS, University of Cambridge*
  • Professor Tim Benton, University of Leeds
  • Professor Richard Brazier, University of Exeter*
  • Dr David Bullock, National Trust*
  • Charles Burrell, Knepp Wildland Project*
  • Tom Butterworth, Natural England*
  • Dr Steve Carver, Wildland Research Institute*
  • Rob Cooke, Natural England
  • Dr Simon Duffield, Natural England
  • Dr Mark Fisher, Wildland Research Institute*
  • John Gorst, United Utilities
  • Dr Paul Jepson, University of Oxford*
  • Keith Kirby, University of Oxford*
  • Dr Alastair Leake, Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust
  • Dr Jamie Lorimer, University of Oxford*
  • Simon Mackown, Defra*
  • Helen Meech, Rewilding Britain*
  • Dr Michael Morecroft, Natural England
  • Pil Birkefeldt Møller Pedersen, Aarhus University*
  • Professor Henrique Miguel Pereira, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg*
  • Nathalie Pettorelli, Zoological Society of London
  • Professor Simon Potts, University of Reading
  • Christopher Price, Country Land and Business Association
  • Claire Robinson, National Farmers Union*
  • Dr Christopher Sandom, University of Sussex*
  • Frans Schepers, Rewilding Europe*
  • Filipa Soares, University of Oxford
  • Magnus Sylvén, Rewilding Europe
  • Paul Wilkinson, The Wildlife Trusts
  • Jake Williams, Zoological Society of London
  • Dr Juliette Young, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology*

POSTnotes POST-PN-0537

Authors: Jonathan Wentworth; Jamie Alison

Topics: Biodiversity, Common Agricultural Policy, Countryside, Nature conservation, Wildlife

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The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology produces independent, balanced and accessible briefings on public policy issues related to science and technology.