Do the preparation task first. Then read the article and do the exercises.
What is rewilding?
'To rewild', or 're-wild', means 'to make something wild again'. The idea is to restore natural environments to their original state, back to how they were before human activity damaged them. Rewilding aims to put nature, not humans, in control. By bringing back the wild animals and plant life that naturally existed there before, we can help ecosystems like rivers, oceans, forests, mountains and grasslands to recover. Rewilding does not generally involve direct actions such as humans planting trees. Instead, we must step back and allow nature to take care of the process.
Why do we need rewilding?
Our planet, and our life support system, is in serious trouble. Rivers are polluted, oceans are full of plastic and forests are dying. Many plants and animals have become extinct, and many more are in danger. We have taken much of their wild habitat and changed it into land for farming and building. Climate chaos is another terrible example of the result of human actions over centuries. The aim of rewilding is to allow some of this damage to heal by helping environments become more natural again.
What are the results of a successful rewilding project?
In 1995, an inspiring rewilding project took place in Yellowstone National Park, USA. For almost 70 years, there hadn't been any wolves in the park. As a result, there were too many deer and they were eating all the trees and plants. This reduced the numbers of many animals, such as birds, beavers and cold-water fish, and even changed the rivers, when their banks started to erode.
So, to control the number of deer, wolves were reintroduced to the park. The result was amazing. The behaviour of the deer changed. They now stayed away from the rivers, where the wolves often would go. This meant small trees now had a chance to grow tall. Some grew five times their height in just six years. With healthier forests, birds and other wildlife came back. Even bears reappeared because now there were plants to eat. The riverbanks became stronger again – thanks to all the new trees – and river animals returned. Reintroducing the top predator allowed nature to find its balance.
Can rewilding happen in oceans?
Rewilding can also happen in oceans. Healthier oceans create a healthier planet. The Earth's temperature is rising because greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) trap heat in the atmosphere. You probably know that trees absorb carbon from the atmosphere. But did you know that whales also do the same thing? During its lifetime, one large whale can absorb around 33,000 kilograms of carbon, while a tree absorbs 22 kilograms a year.
Where there are whales, there are also tiny living creatures that live on the surface of the sea, called phytoplankton. They also absorb carbon dioxide. In fact, phytoplankton absorb an estimated 40 per cent of the CO2 in our atmosphere. That makes phytoplankton really important in the fight against climate change. And it makes whales especially important, because whale excrement feeds phytoplankton.
Sadly, the whale population is just a quarter of what it was centuries ago. Rewilding would mean not only stopping whale hunting but also creating protected areas where fishing and shipping are banned. Rewilding the ocean by banning human activity in certain areas would increase the whale population and fuel phytoplankton, restoring the marine ecosystems that absorb CO2.
What is World Rewilding Day?
On 20 March 2021, people across the planet celebrated the first ever World Rewilding Day. The day continues to be held every year, and is organised by the Global Rewilding Alliance.
The aim of the day is to raise awareness of rewilding and inspire people to get involved in projects that help nature to recover. The message is that together we can change and rewild the world! You can find out more, join an event or organise your own using the links below. You can also help spread the word about rewilding and share the hope it offers for wildlife, nature and the people on our planet.