Should the countryside be ‘rewilded’?
Recently I’ve read a couple of articles proposing that Britain, or at least parts of it, should be ‘rewilded’ – in other words returned to the state it was allegedly in before humans colonized it. That would be several thousand years ago and if we were to strictly follow that line of reasoning then as well as removing all humans and signs of human activity we would also have to remove all introduced species including rabbits, hares, pheasants, grey squirrels, edible dormice, trees such as sycamore and horse chestnut and even apple, wild flowers such as snakes-head fritillaries etc etc (many of these are now regarded as natives but were originally introduced by humans) and reintroduce wolves, wildcats and beavers.
Normally I’m very conservation-minded but I just can’t get to grips with this proposal. For one thing it seems to directly contradict the ethos of most conservation bodies. For many species the traditional country landscape consisting of fields and hedges, woods and glades, rivers and gardens, walls and buildings is what provides the diversity of habitats that allowed so many species to thrive. Many of our native species have declined in recent decades due to the change in farming practices, because they developed to take advantage of traditional farming methods. But if all farming was stopped and the country returned to blanket tree cover of fewer species then those farmland species would have no place either! As a result many species which need habitats such as woodland glades or field margins would die out and the result would be an extensive loss of biodiversity. And in any case, in case anyone has forgotten this, humans are not separate from nature; we, like all other species, are a part of it. What do you think?
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