Climate change is one of the biggest environmental crises we currently face because its impact is felt in almost every aspect of our lives: water, food, wellbeing, etc.
Despite the many dangers that climate change puts the earth in, nature continues to fight back. In fact, nature is man’s greatest ally in the fight against climate change.
However, there is only so much nature can do by itself. Human activities have continued to tamper with the circle of nature and it is up to us, humans, to do right by it.
In light of the discussions about reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero and saving the planet, one question comes to mind: How can we reach net-zero if we do not rid the earth of the excess carbon that is already stored in the atmosphere? This is where rewilding comes in.
Rewilding entails reintroducing huge animals (herbivores and carnivores), that are at the top of the food chain, as well as other core species, to natural habitats so that they can restore the function of the ecosystem by influencing the species below them.
It reinstates natural processes and species, allowing the reinstated species to shape the ecosystem and the habitats within it. Doing this mitigates climate change, increases biodiversity, and creates self-sustainable environments.
There are three (3) types of rewilding:
- Translocation rewilding
- Passive rewilding
- Pleistocene rewilding
This type of process limits human influence in ecosystems. It allows nature to take charge of restoring itself by reclaiming the land that has been cultivated by humans, thereby enabling it to develop and thrive on its own.
While this approach entails reintroducing species to habitats, its sole focus is on restoring lost or defective processes and functions of the ecosystem by reinstating species that have a recent origin.
Unlike translocation rewilding which reintroduces lost species of recent origin, Pleistocene rewilding involves reinstating totally unfamiliar species to an ecosystem.
These species, extant megafauna, are descendants from the Ice Age period which were said to have experienced mass extinction about 12,000 years ago, resulting in an unbalanced ecosystem.
This means plants and animals, and the entire ecosystem that existed before human disturbance is restored to its original state.
How can rewilding help to fight climate change?
Like earlier explained, rewilding helps nature populate and heal. This is so because plants capture and store carbon dioxide through photosynthesis.
The carbon absorbed by the plant finds its way to the soil and this keeps the atmosphere clean. Apart from reforesting, a conscious effort should also be made to restore dying plants by watering them. This is because dried or damaged leaves have the potential to release carbon back into the atmosphere.
Another way that rewilding combats climate change is by restoring sea ecosystems. This is because sea and coastal ecosystems like seagrass, kelp, shellfish, seabed deposits, etc., store carbon.
This carbon is also known as blue carbon and rewilding these ecosystems that absorb blue carbon is key to largely reducing carbon dioxide.
Finally, rewilding tackles rising harsh weather conditions. This is so because plants help in reducing flooding. Rewilding ecosystems means more trees and shrubs will populate bare hills which in turn, will reduce the flow of water downwards. This will prevent people’s homes from being flooded.
Species play a vital role in storing carbon. Reinstating them into damaged ecosystems by means of rewilding will go a long way in addressing the climate change issue.
Nature-based solutions are cheap and effective and we believe they should be explored to the fullest, starting with the rewilding process.