Rewilding – it’s the buzz word of 2023, but how many of us actually know what it really means? It’s the sort of concept that means different things to different people, and while anything that any of us do to help nature is to be celebrated, when it comes to rewilding, we simply cannot do it alone. That’s because true rewilding can only happen on a large, landscape scale – and this is where Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust (GWT) comes in. Natural processes within ecosystems, like grazing and nutrient cycling, should be included and restored as part of rewilding. In gardens and parks, rewilding actions can be applied and are valuable, but at these smaller scales it is not truly rewilding, from a scientific perspective.

GWT’s recent strategy to create Nature Recovery Zones (NRZs) throughout Gloucestershire is putting this principle into action. We’ve all learnt a great deal about the importance of wildlife corridors over the years – allowing nature to move freely out of isolated areas to surrounding habitats – but this is taking it a step further. The creation of NRZs will lead to ‘super nature reserves’ where GWT-owned land links up with surrounding land managed for wildlife by local farmers and landowners. This will help to create complex, functioning ecosystems where human intervention is at a minimum, only stepping in where vital natural processes are missing or reduced.

Great British Life: Siccaridge Wood and Sapperton Valley. (c) Nick TurnerSiccaridge Wood and Sapperton Valley. (c) Nick Turner


But, rewilding doesn’t mean that GWT is going to sit back and do less work. All Wildlife Trusts have pledged that, by 2030, 30% of the land in the UK will be managed for wildlife – currently in Gloucestershire that figure stands at just 13%. Unless GWT changes its management practices and starts to influence how land is managed at this large, landscape-scale, that 30% figure will be hard to achieve. This means that, over the next few years, GWT’s work will focus more on looking at the different ecosystems in the landscape and working out what processes are missing – and then trying to fix the thing that’s broken or missing. This will provide nature with the tools to recover and be more resilient with lower levels of human intervention. By managing land for wildlife and restoring natural processes, less time is required for managing the land. Therefore, restoring these missing processes will enable GWT to influence a wider landscape, which is essential for meeting the 30% by 2030 target.

Managing land on such a large scale means GWT will look to work collaboratively with landowners over the next few decades to restore nature’s delicate ecosystems in the Gloucestershire countryside. Rewilding will not be for everyone and GWT will work with farmers in different ways to make space for nature in areas where food production is the priority. There’s a lot of demand on land use in the county, but the hope is that with cooperation and collaboration, together we can achieve the required landscape-scale effect that we need to help nature’s ecosystems to function once again. Human survival depends on the ecosystem, so if the ecosystem and its natural processes break down, we will suffer the consequences.

Rewilding might be the buzz word of the year – here’s hoping it remains the buzz word of the century!

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