Interdisciplinary workshop on Rewilding held at Bangor University

On 10 January, Bangor University hosted a one day conference on ‘Rewilding in a Changing Europe’ supported through the NRN-LCEE Research Development Fund. 60 academics and practitioners from across Europe came together to set a research agenda to evaluate the opportunities and threats that rewilding poses. 

Rewilding has become a hot topic in recent years, sparking passionate debate across society. For many, rewilding presents an exciting possibility to restore our environment and reconnect with the natural world. For others, it is more threatening - in terms of the potential impacts on agriculture and rural heritage. The programme of the day included presentations from six leading academics in the field:

  • Jens-Christian Svenning (Aarhus University, Denmark) provided a historical ecological context by setting out the need for trophic rewilding’, outlining the impacts of lost species on our habitats.
  • Martin Drenthen (Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands) considered the human dimensions of rewilding and associated potential value conflicts, exploring issues of heritage and environmental identity.
  • Aurora Torres (German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research), explored the applied policy dimensions of rewilding, outlining ongoing work with Rewilding Europe and evaluating how rewilding can address European biodiversity policy goals.
  • Dolly Jørgensen (University of Stavanger, Norway) outlined a series of historical insights into experiences of animal reintroductions, contending that rewilding needs to attend more effectively to local communities.
  • Ian Rotherham (Sheffield Hallam University) considered the ecological traces of ‘Shadow Woods’ in the British landscape, outlining how these fragments and clues could inform more widespread rewilding in the UK. 
  • Marcus Hall (University of Zurich, Switzerland) closed the day with a provocative comparison between landscape or ‘Earth art’ and rewilding. Exploring the interaction of human agency and environmental processes, he considered what could be learnt from curating ‘Earth Art’ for interventions in rewilding.

To ensure discussion were attentive to a range of stakeholder needs – academic and applied – there were also presentations from NGO’s including Rewilding Britain (Rebecca Wrigley) and Wild Europe (Toby Aykroyd), presenting current work and research needs to support the implementation of rewilding. Experiences from the Vincent Wildlife Trust and Wales Wildlife Trust’s Beaver Project, were also shared.

Some of the questions discussed at the event included: Is rewilding a “process” or a “target” (a means or an end)? What are the prospects for urban rewilding? and: What social and psychological factors affect people’s affinity to wild landscapes?

The research priorities drawn up from the day will be published and a series of articles is already underway – with outputs in a forthcoming issue (#4 of 2018) of the Journal of Environmental Values, and chapters in Pettorelli et al.’s forthcoming book ‘Rewilding’.

Presentation slides are online and a video of the day will be uploaded shortly at: https://rewildinglandscapes.wordpress.com/

Publication date: 6 February 2018