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Europe and Central Asia
5 Apr 2017

Green Shoots for rewilding

Sandra Bertocha / Rewilding Europe
By Gui-Xi Young

On 23 March 2017, a coalition of five organisations kicked off a new initiative to strengthen the EU ecological restoration agenda. Rewilding Europe, BirdLife Europe and Central Asia, WWF European Policy Office, the European Environmental Bureau and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to launch this 3-year initiative, which is funded by WWF Netherlands. The overall aim of the partnership is to promote the concept of rewilding, to demonstrate how rewilding principles can help to restore biodiversity at a European level, and to ensure that specific actions are taken to create a coherent ecological network in Europe.  

Habitat loss is a major barrier to biodiversity conservation in the EU and to achieving the goals of the Birds and Habitats Directives and the Water Framework Directive. Restoring and maintaining large and interconnected areas of high quality habitat such as wetlands and floodplains is therefore of utmost importance for the conservation of nature in Europe in the years to come. 

Implementing both the Habitats Directive and the Birds Directive, and achieving a good ecological status of waters under the Water Framework Directive, will require large-scale ecological restoration in the EU. However, progress so far has been disappointing:  none of the 28 EU Member States has presented an adequate plan to restore 15% of their degraded ecosystems, in spite of their commitment under the EU Biodiversity Strategy to develop such plans.

The initiative aims to demonstrate that rewilding principles provide an effective means to support a coherent and functional ecological network in Europe, thereby strengthening the EU restoration agenda. It will promote the acceptance of rewilding principles in the political debate and strive to see their inclusion in the follow-up of the 2020 EU Biodiversity Strategy. 

Photo: Dietmar Nill / Rewilding Europe

In this initiative, “rewilding” is presented as a multifaceted concept with three broad, interrelated dimensions: 1) restoring and giving space to natural processes, 2) reconnecting wild(er) nature with the modern economy, and 3) responding to and shaping of cosmopolitan perceptions of nature conservation among the European society.

Furthermore, rewilding can represent a more cost-efficient approach to ecosystem restoration compared to conservation approaches that require intensive management. The goal is to restore dynamic and self-sustaining ecosystems and, where appropriate, stimulate new enterprise and economic activity, for example nature-friendly tourism. This opens up the prospect of significantly reducing recurrent management costs, and the opportunity to raise new investment and income streams, thus creating new incentives for stakeholders and local communities to value their natural capital and to support conservation.

Gui-Xi Young - News Editor, BirdLife Europe & Central Asia 


Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe.