Posted: 27 Oct 2015 06:52 AM PDT
New research shows that the loss of large animals has had strong effects on ecosystem functions, and that reintroducing large animal faunas may restore biodiverse ecosystems. Rewilding is gaining a lot of interest as an alternative conservation and land management approach in recent years, but remains controversial. It is increasingly clear that Earth harbored rich faunas of large animals — such as elephants, wild horses and big cats — pretty much everywhere, but that these have starkly declined with the spread of humans across the world — a decline that continues in many areas. A range of studies now show that these losses have had strong effects on ecosystem functions, and a prominent strain of rewilding, trophic rewilding, focuses on restoring large animal faunas and their top-down food-web effects to promote self-regulating biodiverse ecosystems. A new study led by researchers from Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University, published in PNAS today, synthesizes the current scientific research on trophic rewilding and outlines key research priorities for rewilding science. “Reviewing the evidence from major rewilding projects such as the wolf reintroduction to the Yellowstone National Park and the Oostvaardersplassen experiment in the Netherlands, the study concludes that species reintroductions and ecological replacements can successfully restore lost food-web cascades with strong ecological effects,” says lead author Professor Jens-Christian Svenning, Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University.
Jens-Christian Svenning, Pil B. M. Pedersen, C. Josh Donlan, Rasmus Ejrnæs, Søren Faurby, Mauro Galetti, Dennis M. Hansen, Brody Sandel, Christopher J. Sandom, John W. Terborgh, Frans W. M. Vera. Science for a wilder Anthropocene: Synthesis and future directions for trophic rewilding research. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2015; 201502556 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1502556112