Bird Watching (UK) - - Parting Shot -

eaten when saplings. Ul­ti­mately, the rewil­d­ing move­ment could usher in a new busi­ness model that could ben­e­fit the ru­ral com­mu­nity from the wildlife tourism gen­er­ated. Farm­ers could be com­pen­sated for loss of live­stock through pre­da­tion, or dam­age to crops. Con­ser­va­tion char­ity, Trees for Life, is at the fore­front of this en­deav­our, with a mis­sion to re­store the Cale­do­nian For­est in the High­lands. Their work, in part­ner­ship with Forestry Com­mis­sion Scot­land, The Na­tional Trust for Scot­land, RSPB and pri­vate landown­ers, to­gether with the tire­less ef­forts of its vol­un­teers, has led to more than a mil­lion trees planted since 1989. This in­cluded the pur­chase of their flag­ship site, the 10,000-acre Dun­dreg­gan Es­tate in 2008, which is cur­rently be­ing re­stored. The es­tate is re­garded as a bio­di­ver­sity hotspot and a strong­hold for rare species, such as Black Grouse. They hope to plant a fur­ther one mil­lion trees by 2018. The eco­log­i­cal im­pacts of rewil­d­ing such ar­eas are far-reach­ing, but not al­ways ob­vi­ous. If Lynx, Wild Boar and Wolf were to be rein­tro­duced, this would ben­e­fit a broad spec­trum of birds. Deer would be dis­placed more fre­quently, there­fore spend­ing less time con­cen­trated in one area. This would al­low veg­e­ta­tion growth. Pre­da­tion of the deer would also de­crease their num­bers and pro­vide car­rion for rap­tors. Higher trophic level species, such as large preda­tors and her­bi­vores, are es­sen­tial in help­ing to form nat­u­rally sel­f­reg­u­lat­ing, healthy ecosys­tems. One na­tion which has wel­comed the rewil­d­ing phi­los­o­phy into its na­tional na­ture pol­icy is the Nether­lands. In the wet­land habi­tat of Oost­vaarder­splassen, a va­ri­ety of her­bi­vores have been rein­tro­duced to roam in a wild state, lead­ing to nat­u­ral fluc­tu­a­tions in the pop­u­la­tion of herds, lead­ing to car­rion. White-tailed Ea­gles be­came fre­quent win­ter vis­i­tors. In 2006 a pair bred on the re­serve, for the first time since the Middle Ages. One el­e­ment miss­ing from this con­tro­ver­sial ex­per­i­ment is preda­tors, which are es­sen­tial for the fun­da­men­tal health of a habi­tat. The most strik­ing ex­am­ple of this ‘trophic cas­cade’ ef­fect can be seen in Yel­low­stone Na­tional Park in the USA, where the rein­tro­duc­tion of Wolves ben­e­fited an en­tire ecosys­tem, at­tract­ing many species back to the area, in­clud­ing birds. Whereas much of rewil­d­ing de­pends on a 50-year or 100-year vi­sion to come to fruition, the rein­tro­duc­tion of apex preda­tors and keystone species can act as cat­a­lysts for in­creas­ing bio­di­ver­sity in the short to medium-term through chain re­ac­tions. Rein­tro­duc­tions are of spe­cial im­por­tance to the rewil­d­ing ini­tia­tive in Bri­tain, ow­ing to our is­land state pre­vent­ing the nat­u­ral re­turn of species, and our lack of habi­tat con­nec­tiv­ity. Rewil­d­ing and rein­tro­duc­tions of­ten get men­tioned in the same con­text; but as the RSPB’S Se­nior Species Re­cov­ery Of­fi­cer, Leigh Lock ex­plains, they’re con­cep­tu­ally very dif­fer­ent: “Rewil­d­ing in­volves the with­drawal of man­age­ment and in­ter­ven­tion to al­low na­ture to run its course. In con­trast, rein­tro­duc­tions are highly in­ter­ven­tion­ist – in­volv­ing the phys­i­cal re­lo­ca­tion of in­di­vid­ual an­i­mals or plants from one place to an­other.” Red Kite rein­tro­duc­tion has proved a spec­tac­u­lar suc­cess at sev­eral sites across the coun­try

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