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Durham University

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Publication details

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

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

1. Rewilding, here defined as “the reorganisation of biota and ecosystem processes to
set an identified social–ecological system on a preferred trajectory, leading to the
self-sustaining provision of ecosystem services with minimal ongoing management,”
is increasingly considered as an environmental management option, with
potential for enhancing both biodiversity and ecosystem services.
2. Despite 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
elusive.
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, for example, 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 the broad implementation of rewilding projects. To progress
the global rewilding agenda, a better appreciation of current policy opportunities
and constraints is required. This, together with a clear definition of rewilding
and a scientifically robust rationale for its local implementation, is a prerequisite to
engage governments in revising legislation where required to facilitate the operationalisation
of rewilding.