Rewilding: What would it mean for British wildlife?

Rewilding has recently and controversially been advocated as the optimal strategy to restore biodiversity in both Northern Europe and North America. It has become a divisive issue in conservation, involving prominent scientists, and attracting much media and political attention. Definitions about rewilding are often clouded by ambiguity and vagueness – but most references to rewilding describe either:

  • Reduction or minimisation of active conservation management to allow the development of dynamic and unpredictable landscapes.


  • Proposals to reintroduce large grazing and predatory animals, or similar species as proxies, with the intention of reinstating lost ecological processes and evolutionary potential.

Bold claims have been made for the potential biodiversity benefits of rewilding, such as enhanced ability for adaptation to climate change – so there is an urgent need for an ecological evaluation of the evidence for these assertions.

A BES Ecological Issues booklet is currently in preparation to give a critical overview of the various guises of rewilding. There is also a BES specialist meeting on the Ecological consequences of ‘Wilding’ on 12 July 2007.