Feral konik horses walk through a field of wildflowers at golden hour

What is Rewilding?

Feral konik horses walk through a field of wildflowers at golden hour

What is Rewilding?

Rewilding can help create a healthier, more resilient natural world. As we become ever more aware of the threats to our planet and the need to safeguard its future, rewilding offers us a crucial opportunity. But what do we mean by rewilding? The term is controversial and often misunderstood. It's frequently thought to refer to the reintroduction of apex predators, like wolves, to a landscape. Though this is often a piece of the puzzle, rewilding is about much more. Here we answer the question What is Rewilding?

1. The Problem

2. Nature's rhythms

3. Wilderness and Us

4. Benefits of Rewilding

5. Embracing Change

Rewilding can help create a healthier, more resilient natural world. As we become ever more aware of the threats to our planet and the need to safeguard its future, rewilding offers us a crucial opportunity. But what do we mean by rewilding? The term is controversial and often misunderstood. It's frequently thought to refer to the reintroduction of apex predators, like wolves, to a landscape. Though this is often a piece of the puzzle, rewilding is about much more. Here we answer the question What is Rewilding?

1. The Problem

2. Nature's rhythms

3. Wilderness and Us

4. Benefits of Rewilding

5. Embracing Change

The Problem

For thousands of years, humans have changed landscapes and disrupted natural ecosystems. We've cleared large swathes of forest for agriculture, removed large carnivores from much of their range and changed the course of rivers. We're the ultimate ecosystem engineers and the natural world has suffered at our hands. In the face of climate breakdown and global extinctions, it’s now more urgent than ever that we not only protect what we have left but also restore the ecosystems that we destroyed.

Fields of grains that cover the landscape are harvested

The Problem

For thousands of years, humans have changed landscapes and disrupted natural ecosystems. We've cleared large swathes of forest for agriculture, removed large carnivores from much of their range and changed the course of rivers. We're the ultimate ecosystem engineers and the natural world has suffered at our hands. In the face of climate breakdown and global extinctions, it’s now more urgent than ever that we not only protect what we have left but also restore the ecosystems that we destroyed.

Fields of grains that cover the landscape are harvested

What is Rewilding? - Nature's Rhythms

This is where rewilding comes in. Rewilding is based on the premise that nature knows best how to take care of itself. We can give it a helping hand and create the right conditions by restoring vital ecosystem processes like predation, grazing, regeneration and decomposition. For example, carnivores like wolves and lynx shape ecosystems in their role as top predators. They affect the numbers and behaviour of prey species and this has a knock-on effect on the other species in the ecosystem. The impacts of these carnivores can be felt as far down the food chain as the plant species, a phenomenon known as a trophic cascade. Today, initiatives across the globe are bringing these top predators back and restoring the species and natural processes that keep the Earth’s ecosystems healthy.

A bison stands in the prairie against a backdrop of conifer trees. A perfect example of what is rewilding, the introduction of a keystone species such as the Bison to help naturally engineer the landscape.
A bison stands in the prairie against a backdrop of conifer trees. A perfect example of what is rewilding, the introduction of a keystone species such as the Bison to help naturally engineer the landscape.

What is Rewilding? - Nature's Rhythms

This is where rewilding comes in. Rewilding is based on the premise that nature knows best how to take care of itself. We can give it a helping hand and create the right conditions by restoring vital ecosystem processes like predation, grazing, regeneration and decomposition. For example, carnivores like wolves and lynx shape ecosystems in their role as top predators. They affect the numbers and behaviour of prey species and this has a knock-on effect on the other species in the ecosystem. The impacts of these carnivores can be felt as far down the food chain as the plant species, a phenomenon known as a trophic cascade. Today, initiatives across the globe are bringing these top predators back and restoring the species and natural processes that keep the Earth’s ecosystems healthy.

Wilderness and Us

Ultimately, within a rewilded landscape there shouldn’t be much need for active management. Nature can look after itself better and more cost-effectively than we can. Rewilding is therefore about reducing human control over the land. It does not mean removing people from the land entirely. In fact, in these wilder landscapes, people and planet can flourish together.

Hikes walk down a trail of wildflowers and conifer trees towards a snow cover mountain

Wilderness and US

Ultimately, within a rewilded landscape there shouldn’t be much need for active management. Nature can look after itself better and more cost-effectively than we can. Rewilding is therefore about reducing human control over the land. It does not mean removing people from the land entirely. In fact, in these wilder landscapes, people and planet can flourish together.

Hikes walk down a trail of wildflowers and conifer trees towards a snow cover mountain. An excellent example of what is rewilding and its benefits of nature based tourism.

Benefits of Rewilding

When nature is healthy, it can provide us with abundant products and services, from food and medicine to flood defences and cool air. It offers rural communities economic opportunities through things like wildlife-based tourism. It makes us feel better too. Connecting with nature is good for our mental and physical health. Of course, it's good for the non-human animals that inhabit our earth too. Top predators and grazers are reclaiming lost ground across the globe while rare plants and insects are making a comeback in regenerating forests. These healthier, more intact ecosystems can also help us fight against climate breakdown by keep carbon stored in plants and soil.

A calm stream meanders through a forest towards the step mountainsides

What is Rewilding?

Tourists stand near their safari vehicle under the shade of a large Baobab tree. An excellent example of what is rewilding and its benefits of nature based tourism.

Benefits of Rewilding

When nature is healthy, it can provide us with abundant products and services, from food and medicine to flood defences and cool air. It offers rural communities economic opportunities through things like wildlife-based tourism. It makes us feel better too. Connecting with nature is good for our mental and physical health. Of course, it's good for the non-human animals that inhabit our earth too. Top predators and grazers are reclaiming lost ground across the globe while rare plants and insects are making a comeback in regenerating forests. These healthier, more intact ecosystems can also help us fight against climate breakdown by keep carbon stored in plants and soil.

Embracing Change

Rewilding focuses on restoring ecosystem processes. Landscapes are not restored with a fixed set of end goals in mind. It’s not about rebuilding what once was, but about supporting a constantly evolving, ecologically dynamic landscape. Through rewilding, we can create a future in which our natural world can work uninterrupted in all its rich complexity to shape our landscapes. We can help bring wilderness back from the brink.

Embracing Change

Rewilding focuses on restoring ecosystem processes. Landscapes are not restored with a fixed set of end goals in mind. It’s not about rebuilding what once was, but about supporting a constantly evolving, ecologically dynamic landscape. Through rewilding, we can create a future in which our natural world can work uninterrupted in all its rich complexity to shape our landscapes. We can help bring wilderness back from the brink.

A calm stream meanders through a forest towards the step mountainsides

What is Rewilding?

About The Author

About The Author

Hannah is the Lead Biologist at Mossy Earth. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Natural Sciences: Biology and Anthropology from Durham University and a Master’s degree in Conservation Biology from the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology. She has been working in the field of environmental conservation in an effort to protect and restore the natural world. She has extensive experience of working in scientific research, wildlife rehabilitation and communication. Hannah who is also a very a talented photographer, uses her photography to document the natural world with the aim of bridging the gap with the human world. She seeks to engage people in conservation issues and inspire a global passion towards nature.

Sources & further reading

✅ for peer reviewed research

  1. 1. “Rewilding in a European context – F Schepers & P Jepson 2016. International Journal of Wilderness - Vol 22, Issue 2 -geog.ox.ac.uk ✅
  2.  
  1. 2.“Feral: Searching for Enchantment on the Frontiers of Rewilding”– George Monbiot 2013 – Penguin – penguin.co.uk

3. “Rewilding European Landscapes” – Henrique Pereira and Laetitia Navarro 2015 –springer.com

4.“Proving the ‘Shifting Baselines’ Theory: How Humans Consistently Misperceive Nature” – Jeremy Hance 2009 – mongabay.com

✅ for peer reviewed research

    1. 1. “Rewilding in a European context – F Schepers & P Jepson 2016. International Journal of Wilderness - Vol 22, Issue 2 - geog.ox.ac.uk ✅
    2.  
    1. 2.“Feral: Searching for Enchantment on the Frontiers of Rewilding”– George Monbiot 2013 – Penguin – penguin.co.uk

    3. “Rewilding European Landscapes” – Henrique Pereira and Laetitia Navarro 2015 –springer.com

    4.“Proving the ‘Shifting Baselines’ Theory: How Humans Consistently Misperceive Nature” – Jeremy Hance 2009 – mongabay.com