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Interview – How Rewilding Can Help Solve The Climate Crisis

We speak to Sara King, Rewilding Network Lead at Rewilding Britain, about how the organisation is helping to fight the climate crisis through rewilding.

Interview – How Rewilding Can Help Solve The Climate Crisis

Rewilding Britain is a country-wide organisation that focuses on rewilding. Acknowledging the impact it can have on reversing biodiversity loss and mitigating climate heating, their vision is to ‘expand the scale, quality and connectivity of Britain’s native habitats’ to see 30% of our land and sea restored for nature by 2030.

Sara King, Rewilding Network Lead at Rewilding Britain, spoke to Mer about rewilding, its impact on tackling the climate crisis, and how the organisation is helping to rewild our country.


Rewilding – A Force For Change


What Is Rewilding?

Nature is our life support system, it’s the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink, the energy that sustains us. And it’s in trouble. Wildlife is in dramatic decline. Species extinction and catastrophic climate change threaten all life on Earth. We must take action.

Nature has the power to heal itself and to heal us, if we let it. That’s what rewilding is all about; restoring ecosystems to the point where nature can take care of itself, and restoring our relationship with the natural world. Reconnecting with what matters.

Rewilding is hope for the future.


How Does Rewilding Help Us Tackle The Climate Crisis And Create A Greener Planet?

“Rewilding and other natural climate solutions can draw millions of tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere by restoring and protecting our living systems.”

Additional benefits include flood mitigation, water quality improvement, increased health and wellbeing, enhancement of biodiversity and landscape amenity value.

Those who work and manage the land play a pivotal role. They should be rewarded for delivering carbon reductions and biodiversity benefits as part of a mosaic of land uses that sustains thriving rural communities.


What Are Some Examples Of Rewilding?

Rewilding is a journey, where change happens at nature’s pace and unfolds over years, decades and even centuries. It exists on a spectrum, where people are starting to make changes that will benefit nature at one end, and large-scale functioning ecosystems — a flourishing of wild nature on its own terms — sits at the other.

There are some notable pioneering projects putting elements of rewilding into practice across Britain. Some, such as Carrifran and Creag Meagaidh in Scotland, have been going for years. Others, such as Sheepdrove Organic Farm and Wild Ken Hill in England, are just beginning. Many are members of our Rewilding Network map.

Examples of rewilding include:

  • Protecting, expanding, and connecting ancient woodlands to enable a diverse range of wildlife to establish and disperse, and increasing carbon storage,
  • Reducing high populations of grazing animals to help trees and other vegetation grow,
  • Removing fishing pressure and creating proper marine protection to stop dredging and bottom trawling so that sea life can recover and flourish,
  • Restoring wetlands and introducing beavers to boost biodiversity, store carbon and help flood prevention,

Rewilding Britain

  • Bringing back missing species to plug crucial gaps in the ecosystem, and re-forge key relationships between species (for example, between predators and prey and scavengers),
  • Restoring key marine ecosystems such as kelp forest, seagrass and oyster beds to boost biodiversity, suck in carbon and get natural processes working,
  • Removing dams so that fish can move freely and the forces of erosions and deposition are allowed to re-establish themselves,
  • Reconnecting rivers with floodplains, restoring their natural course to slow the flow, easing flooding and creating habitats for fish and other aquatic and wetland wildlife,
  • Connecting up habitats and providing wildlife bridges so wildlife can move and disperse naturally, helping them adapt to climate change and build resilience,
  • Setting aside large areas for nature so that nature can truly evolve on its own terms, maximising biodiversity, carbon storage and essential eco benefits.


Does rewilding only benefit our landscapes and wildlife?

Rewilding is about people – we need nature to thrive.

“Although rewilding focuses on restoring natural processes, it can also support healthier places for us. It can create opportunities for rural and coastal communities to prosper through nature-based enterprises, production, and employment opportunities.”

More nature is also better for all of us, providing us with clean water, flood defences, food, healthy soils, breathable air, and good health. It’s important that we work to ensure everyone has access to wilder nature, even in our urban areas.


In September 2020, former Prime Minister Boris Johnson committed to protect 30% of the UK’s land by 2030. Is this an achievable target, and what needs to happen in order for us to achieve it?

We have undertaken a mapping exercise to identify areas of highest potential for nature recovery and rewilding. We will be using this map as a basis for showing how 30% rewilding can be achieved, and the land uses it will affect (namely grouse moors and deer shooting estates, as well as land within national parks).

Key policies to achieve 30% include agricultural policies including ELMs, Biodiversity Net Gain, Welsh Agriculture Bill, Nature Bills, Scottish Natural Environment Bill. We are also engaging with major landowners and national park authorities to identify areas where significant rewilding can be achieved.


What are the biggest barriers to the restoration of our ecosystems, in your opinion?

We need to identify large areas where landscape scale change can be achieved – these need to be joined up areas, where semi-natural herds of herbivores can roam and nature can be given the space to thrive. This requires financial incentives for change that focuses on the medium and long-term, not just short term periods of up to 10 years. We would also like to see nature-based rural and coastal economies supporting a diversified, resilient and just economic transition alongside the large-scale restoration and rewilding of nature. This requires a change in policy, legislation and mindset.


What is natural regeneration, and why is it important?

Given sufficient seed sources and suitable site conditions, trees will plant themselves in their millions for free over as large an area of land as we want to spare. Seeds dispersed by weather and animals will root where they can, often in unexpected places, creating mosaics of habitats — from open clearings and groves of trees to thicker canopy cover. This will create more resilient and natural woodlands than tree planting alone, offering more opportunities for wildlife.


Rewilding Britain’s Work


Who are Rewilding Britain, and what are you doing to help rewild our country and fight the climate crisis?

We are the first and only country-wide organisation in Britain focusing on rewilding and the amazing benefits it can bring for people, nature, and climate. We want to see rewilding flourishing across Britain – reconnecting us with the natural world, sustaining communities and tackling the climate emergency and the extinction crisis.

Sustainable Initiatives At Mer

We provide advice and practical support to catalyse rewilding across Britain. We actively engage in policy change and influencing stakeholders, including large landowners and national parks, to rewilding more of their land. We’re first movers who champion bold, concrete action now, whilst providing credible technical advice and information. We also work in partnership with others, and engage several audiences with what rewilding looks like and how it can be achieved.


What are Rewilding Britain’s goals for the next 5 years?

Deliverable 1: Britain’s largest public, NGO, and private landowners (not yet part of the Rewilding Network) make a commitment and are in the process of rewilding at least 200k hectares, working in line with our rewilding principles.

Deliverable 2: Rewilding Network members are supported to increase rewilding area to 300k hectares of land + 200k hectares marine and to move up the rewilding spectrum (natural processes restored, missing species reinstated, nature-based enterprises established etc).

Deliverable 3: At least 25% of all NPs and PAs (land and marine) commit to and are in process of creating 10% core rewilding areas (spectrum 4-5) within wider 50% nature’s recovery and nature-based economic approach.

Deliverable 4: Key legislation and policy changes enable, incentivise and provide funding for rewilding, e.g. ELMs, Welsh Ag Bill, Scottish Env Bill, Nature Green Papers, Glover response.

Deliverable 5: Awareness, understanding and engagement with rewilding, and with Rewilding Britain, is growing and broadening amongst key audiences.


Your slogan is ‘Think Big, Act Wild’. How can people start thinking big and acting wild by rewilding?

We have space to rewild and think at a landscape scale, but to do this we need to think strategically. We are working with various stakeholders, including landowners and land managers, to encourage them to connect up and work together. This can include shared visions, joined up management and interventions (including river catchment restoration and deer management), and shared herbivore grazing. We also need to let nature lead the way, and embrace dynamic ever changing landscapes and seascapes.

“We also need to encourage wilder national parks, and change our view of these landscapes to create bigger areas of nature recovery and rewilding – supporting people and nature together.”

This should be achieved through connected corridors to allow wildlife to move within our landscapes and seascapes, and joining up stepping stone habitats.


How can people support Rewilding Britain’s work?

We want people to support our work through sharing key messaging, talking about rewilding to others and engaging in campaigns on key issues. If you are a landowner or land manager, please join the rewilding network where we can provide practical support for your project. We also rely on donations to ensure that we can continue to catalyse rewilding and influence key policies.

I expect you are most probably aware that environmental groups are joining forces to push back against the current Government’s attack on nature.

We know that protecting and helping nature underpins our lives, our economy and our wellbeing. So it’s absolutely critical that the UK Government hears – loudly and clearly – that they cannot tear up the laws that best protect nature, that they cannot weaken protections for nature in the planning system, and that they cannot delay or even scrap vital proposals that would help landowners and farmers to help nature. To learn more about what we are doing and how you could take action, please read our statement and updates here.

Rewilding Britain

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