The Roadmap to Increasing Biodiversity

Biodiversity has collapsed by roughly 60% around the world since 1970 and that number is even worse if you consider freshwater habitats. The UK’s record is as poor as everyone else’s.

This disastrous loss in biodiversity can be boiled down to a single cause. The planet has become less wild. To restore biodiversity we need nature to recover and that led me to the concept of rewilding. It is a new conservation narrative which positively appreciates the importance of wild nature. Traditional conservation is often focused on small nature reserves which are heavily managed in order to optimise for a particular species. These efforts are of course commendable but rewilding is about letting nature lead, not us. Rewilding seeks to reinstate natural processes. With rewilding plant growth accelerates, soil health improves and many animals and insects return to these regenerated habitats.

We learned from Rewilding Britain that currently 13% of Britain has tree cover compared to 40% in the EU. Rewilding Britain is targeting 30% by 2030. This 30% is made up of two components, core rewilding sites at 5% and Nature Enhancing Land at 25%. Agriculture represents 71% of land use in the UK, two thirds of which is used for livestock .

 
 
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A key question is how do you convince farmers and other land owners on the merits of rewilding thereby enhancing their land and getting to the 25% goal on the right hand side? The answer we believe is having rewilding demonstration sites that show the wider benefits of rewilding, both environmental and financial, to owners of marginal agricultural land that will encourage them to transition to a more mixed model of regenerative agriculture and rewilding. But there is a problem. These demonstration sites cost money because of the need for scale.
 
Owning land at scale (200+ hectares, 500+ acres) is critical as biodiversity is driven by larger grazing digging herbivores causing land disturbance. You can only have these animals if the habitats for them are big enough therefore giving them the freedom that they need. When you leave land undisturbed the growth of trees and plants is uninterrupted and you end up with a closed canopy of trees limiting sunlight and growth on the ground with the knock on effect of significantly limiting biodiversity.

At Consano Earth we look to support Core Rewilding Sites both new, specifically with Heal Rewilding, as well as established such as those owned by the John Muir Trust.  We back organisations such as Rewilding Britain that acts as an united voice for the growing rewilding community and can influence public policy through initiatives such as the Wilder National Parks.
 
Great progress is being made with Core Rewilding Sites but it won't be enough. Landowners need to be encouraged to give marginal agricultural land back to nature and we are encouraged by the progress at WildEast in this regard. Their ambition is to get landowners to commit 20% of land to nature (250,000 hectares). We hope that other regions follow suit. This will help establish those all important nature corridors.

A great example of what can be done is Wild Ken Hill in Norfolk. In 2018 Dominic Buscall initiated a transformation project that took 4,000 acres of traditional farmland and divided it into three areas: 2,500 acres regenerative agriculture, 500 acres traditional conservation and a 1,000 acre rewilding area. Wild Ken Hill has brought beavers back to Norfolk and in 2021 received approval for white-tailed eagles to return to eastern England. 

The UK's rewilding efforts needs to be joined up and everyone involved can help with this by being a part of Rewilding Britain's Rewilding Network. Time is running out to 2030.

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