Making rewilding fit for policy

Pettorelli, Nathalie, Barlow, Jos, Stephens, Philip A, Durant, Sarah M, Connor, Ben, to Bühne, Henrike Schulte, Sandom, Christopher J, Wentworth, Jonathan and du Toit, Johan T (2018) Making rewilding fit for policy. Journal of Applied Ecology, 55 (3). pp. 1114-1125. ISSN 0021-8901

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Abstract

1. Rewilding, here defined as the restoration or reorganization of the biota and ecosystem processes to achieve a preferred outcome for an identified social-ecological system, is increasingly considered as an environmental management option with potential for enhancing both biodiversity and ecosystem services.

2. Despite the burgeoning interest in the concept, there are uncertainties and difficulties associated with the practical implementation of rewilding projects, while the evidence available for facilitating sound decision-making for rewilding initiatives remains limited.

3. We identify five key research areas to inform the implementation of future rewilding initiatives: increased understanding of the links between actions and impacts; improved risk assessment processes, through e.g. better definition and quantification of ecological risks; improved predictions of spatio-temporal variation in potential economic costs and associated benefits; better identification and characterisation of the likely social impacts of a given rewilding project; and facilitated emergence of a comprehensive and practical framework for the monitoring and evaluation of rewilding projects.

4. Policy implications. Environmental legislation is commonly based on a ‘compositionalist’ paradigm itself predicated on the preservation of historical conditions characterised by the presence of particular species assemblages and habitat types. However, global environmental change is driving some ecosystems beyond their limits so that restoration to historical benchmarks or modern likely equivalents may no longer be an option. This means that the current environmental policy context could present barriers to conducting the large-scale, long-term ecological experiments required to gather the evidence needed for rewilding to be considered as an evidence-based policy option. Opportunities such as the UK’s decision to leave the European Union could be used to develop novel land management approaches focused on payments for the delivery of desired ecosystem services, which could accommodate the piloting of well monitored and evaluated rewilding initiatives, altogether supporting the development of the required evidence base.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Ecosystem Processes; Ecosystem Services; Environmental Legislation; Monitoring and Evaluation; Restoration; Wildlife Management
Schools and Departments: School of Life Sciences > Evolution, Behaviour and Environment
Depositing User: Christopher Sandom
Date Deposited: 05 Jan 2018 11:47
Last Modified: 03 Jul 2018 14:18
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/72622

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