Rewilding has been intensely debated among conservationists and ecologists. Multiple definitions and conceptual frameworks have been proposed for rewilding programmes, but hitherto all with a focus on promoting biodiversity conservation via restoration of ecological processes. Recently, however, it has been proposed to instead focus rewilding on the promotion of self-sustaining provisioning of preferred ecosystem services. Such shift in focus comes with an increased risk that rewilding efforts could be designed towards the promotion of simplified ecosystems providing selected ecosystem services, despite negative effects on biodiversity, as well as considerable socio-economic risks and ethical problems. We argue that rewilding should keep its focus on promoting biodiversity, with provisioning of other ecosystem services being integrated in the design of rewilding projects only as co-benefits. If such services become the main motivation for rewilding projects, there is a risk of misinterpretations and rewilding promoting less diverse ecosystems.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Abreu RCR, Durigan G (2011) Changes in the plant community of a Brazilian grassland savannah after 22 years of invasion by Pinus elliottii Engelm. Plant Ecol Divers 4:269–278
Balaguer L, Escudero A, Martín-Duque JF et al (2014) The historical reference in restoration ecology: re-defining a cornerstone concept. Biol Conserv 176:12–20. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2014.05.007
Cardinale BJ, Duffy JE, Gonzalez A et al (2012) Biodiversity loss and its impact on humanity. Nature 486:59–67. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature11148
Choi YD (2007) Restoration ecology to the future: a call for new paradigm. Restor Ecol 15:351–353
Corlett RT (2016) Restoration, reintroduction, and rewilding in a changing world. Trends Ecol Evol 31(6):453–462. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2016.02.017
Donlan J, Greene HW, Berger J et al (2005) Re-wilding North America. Nature 436:913–914. https://doi.org/10.1038/436913a
Hall SJG (2018) A novel agroecosystem: beef production in abandoned farmland as a multifunctional alternative to rewilding. Agric Syst 167:10–16. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agsy.2018.08.009
Harris JA, Hobbs RJ, Higgs E, Aronson J (2006) Ecological restoration and global climate change. Restor Ecol 14:170–176. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1526-100X.2006.00136.x
Higgs E, Falk DA, Guerrini A et al (2014) The changing role of history in restoration ecology. Front Ecol Environ 12:499–506. https://doi.org/10.1890/110267
Hobbs RJ, Higgs E, Harris JA (2009) Novel ecosystems: implications for conservation and restoration. Trends Ecol Evol 24:599–605. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2009.05.012
Laughlin DC, Strahan RT, Huffman DW, Sánchez Meador AJ (2017) Using trait-based ecology to restore resilient ecosystems: historical conditions and the future of montane forests in western North America. Restor Ecol 25:S135–S146. https://doi.org/10.1111/rec.12342
Navarro LM, Pereira HM (2012) Rewilding abandoned landscapes in Europe. Ecosystems 15:900–912. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10021-012-9558-7
Oliveira-Santos LGR, Fernandez FAS (2010) Pleistocene rewilding, Frankenstein ecosystems, and an alternative conservation agenda. Conserv Biol 24:4–5. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1523-1739.2009.01379.x
Pauchard A, García R, Zalba S et al (2015) Pine invasions in south america: reducing their ecological impacts through active management. In: Canning-Clode J (ed) Biological invasions in changing ecosystems. De Gruyter Open, Warsaw, pp 318–342
Pettorelli N, Barlow J, Stephens PA, Durant SM, Connor B, Bühne HS, Sandom CJ, Wentworth J, du Toit JT, Nuñez M (2018) Making rewilding fit for policy. J Appl Ecol 55(3):1114–1125. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2664.13082
Simberloff D, Nuñez MA, Ledgard NJ et al (2010) Spread and impact of introduced conifers in South America: lessons from other southern hemisphere regions. Austral Ecol 35:489–504. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1442-9993.2009.02058.x
Soulé ME, Noss RF (1998) Rewilding and biodiversity conservation as complementary goals for continental conservation. Wild Earth 8:18–28
Svenning J-C, Pedersen PBM, Donlan CJ et al (2016) Science for a wilder Anthropocene: synthesis and future directions for trophic rewilding research. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 113:898–906. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1502556112
Tewksbury JJ, Rogers HS (2014) An animal-rich future. Science 345:400. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1258601
Torres A, Fernández N, Ermgassen SZ et al (2018) Measuring rewilding progress. Philos Trans R Soc B. https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2017.0433
This work was partly supported by Student Conference on Conservation Science Miriam Rothschild Travel Bursary Programme, which provided a Grant to LG. LG was also supported by Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES) and Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (FAPERJ). FASF and ASP receive personal grants by Conselho Nacional de Pesquisa e Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq). FASF, ASP and LG receive support from Fundação Grupo Boticário de Proteção à Natureza (0010/2014), CNPq (Grant Numbers: 487092/2012-4 and 308356/2014-4) and FAPERJ (Grant Number: E-26/010/001645/2014). We thank the REFAUNA team for previous profitable discussions. JCS considers this work a contribution to his Carlsberg Foundation Semper Ardens project MegaPast2Future (Grant CF16-0005) and to his VILLUM Investigator project “Biodiversity Dynamics in a Changing World” funded by VILLUM FONDEN (Grant 16549). Mauro Galetti substantially contributed to initial discussions on this paper.
Conflict of interest
We declare no conflicts of interest.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Communicated by David Hawksworth.
About this article
Cite this article
Genes, L., Svenning, JC., Pires, A.S. et al. Why we should let rewilding be wild and biodiverse. Biodivers Conserv 28, 1285–1289 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-019-01707-w
- Biodiversity conservation
- Ecosystem services