June 27, 2023

For Nature and Humanity: How rewilding benefits our planet

Reversing our impact on nature is one of the biggest challenges facing the planet right now. Our ecosystems are severely under threat, resulting in massive biodiversity loss and species extinction. Rewilding is a way we can fight back. 

Rewilding benefits the natural environment in a number of ways. Returning native flora and fauna to their original environment helps nature flourish. Plus rewilding has many social, ecological and economic benefits.

rewilding benefits on the environment

What is rewilding?

Rewilding heals ecosystems by letting nature take care of itself. It has the power to protect species from extinction and even restore lost ecosystems. This is done by reintroducing native plants and animals to an area damaged by human activity, and then letting nature do its thing.  

When we allow nature to heal itself, we give it one of the best opportunities to thrive. This is one of the many awesome things about our world and its ecosystems—it knows how to survive (when given the chance)! 

There have been some notable rewilding success stories in recent years. In Yellowstone National Park, gray wolves were reintroduced to the region after disappearing for nearly 70 years. Wolves are a keystone species, which means their presence can define the health and success of an entire ecosystem. Without keystone species, an ecosystem would be dramatically different or cease to exist altogether. 

two wolves cuddling

The presence of the wolves led to a significant reduction in the park’s elk population, creating a stronger and more resilient herd by removing the sick and weak. The park also saw a recovery of vegetation and an increase in habitat for other species to flourish.

Following the success of wolf introduction in Yellowstone, conservationists in Argentina wanted to try a similar rewilding project in the Iberá Wetlands. Several locally extinct species have been reintroduced; including the giant anteater, collared peccary, and the jaguar. This reintroduction has transformed the former ‘hole’ in the heart of Argentina into a bucolic paradise, and offered countless economic benefits to communities in the region. In 2022, the New York Times ranked the area sixth out of the 52 best places in the world to experience nature.

The success of rewilding initiatives depends heavily on the project's goals, timeline, scale and influence of local communities. Each rewilding project needs careful planning and monitoring to achieve long-term success. This is why rewilding isn’t always as popular as other conservation methods.

Rewilding vs Conservation vs Afforestation: What’s the difference?

When we talk about rewilding, we often use terms like ‘conservation,’ ‘nature protection’ and ‘afforestation’ in the same conversation. So what’s the difference? Simply put, all three are different approaches to protecting the future of our planet.

You’re probably most aware of conservation. Its goal is to protect and preserve existing natural resources, habitats, and species. Its focus is on prevention, rather than renewal. Conservation  efforts include protecting endangered species from going extinct, restoring habitats, and promoting more sustainable practices for managing natural resources.

wild rhino

When it comes to rewilding, nature is given the opportunity to bounce back on its own with limited human intervention. The goal is to bring back an ecosystem's natural functionality and resilience, by triggering something called ‘biological interaction.’ Biological interaction is the relationship that two organisms in the same area have on each other. Removing one (or several) of these organisms from an area can have a devastating effect on those that need them to survive and thrive. One way this can be reversed by introducing a keystone species—such as the Yellowstone wolves—back into an ecosystem. Nature is then left to take its course over the years.

Afforestation—on the other hand—establishes forest ecosystems in areas where there were no forests to begin with, to create a new forest. It involves planting trees or allowing trees to naturally regenerate. It’s mostly a proactive measure used to combat deforestation, land degradation, and the effects of climate change. It is not the same as reforestation, which aims to plant more trees in forested areas where tree numbers have been going down.

Image of trees

Rewilding benefits: Bringing nature back

Even in the wildest places on Earth, nature is on the decline. Global biodiversity is in trouble, but rewilding is a tool we can use to help solve this problem. When rewilding efforts are successful, the impact is phenomenal. By encouraging natural and native species interaction, devastated ecosystems can begin to recover.

Rewilding supports biodiversity

At its core rewilding is all about giving ecosystems a helping hand. As we all know, our planet is facing an existential crisis, driven predominantly by human activity. Rewilding aims to restore the natural functions of an ecosystem by facilitating natural processes such as predator behavior, seed dispersal, and nutrient cycling. It also encourages natural species interaction which restores balance to a region. 

Rewilding positively influences Trophic Cascades

Trophic cascades are powerful, indirect species interactions that can control the existence of entire ecosystems. An example is the loss of large predators and other animals at the top of the food chain. This has a significant impact on the world’s ecosystems. Climate change, agriculture, poaching, deforestation and other human activities have led to the decline or even extinction of crucial predators.

When important species are reintroduced to a region, they have the ability to shape and influence their environment in a meaningful way. Their impact can be felt throughout the food chain, radically altering an ecosystem and setting it on a path to recovery.

Bison wearing tracking technolgy

Rewilding makes ecosystems stronger 

Rewilded ecosystems tend to be more resilient to environmental changes and climate disruptions. These kinds of projects help ecosystems adapt to climate change, protect against natural disasters, combat invasive species, and recover quicker. The more diverse and complex an ecosystem is, the more robust and resilient it becomes. 

Rewilding has economic value

It’s not only about nature—people can also benefit enormously from rewilding initiatives. Rewilding offers new opportunities for economic activity, such as nature based tourism and wilderness exploration. Rewilding projects also increase awareness of the importance of ecosystem restoration. 

Collaboration between local communities and conservation organizations is key to the long-term success of rewilding projects, especially if it helps move those communities away from unsustainable economic activities (like large-scale farming, foresting, and overfishing) and towards eco-friendly land management practices and ecotourism. 

Rewilding improves our well-being

A wilder planet has many crucial benefits to human health. Not only do strong ecosystems provide important protection against natural disasters and climate change, but increased biodiversity also impacts our health. Many studies have proven that spending time in nature greatly improves our mental and physical health, reducing stress levels and increasing happiness! 

Declining ecosystems also has an impact on the vital microscopic organisms responsible for cancer treatments, painkillers and other life-saving medicines. Healthy ecosystems give us an abundance of benefits that improve all aspects of our overall well being and protect us from harm.

Here at Planet Wild we talk a lot about rewilding. It’s one of the many ways we’re helping nature fight back against all the devastating consequences of human activity. When you support our monthly missions, you are directly supporting rewilding initiatives on the ground! 

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