CALLING STUDENTS TO TAKE PART IN THE ARETÉ BIOLOGY CHALLENGE – THE CASE FOR REWILDING
19 April 2021 | G Denison
The rewilding of our countryside has been proposed by climate scientists and ecologists to combat both climate change and loss of biodiversity. But rewilding presents some considerable challenges in a heavily-populated country such as the UK.
Firstly, what do we mean by “wild”? Given that humans have been modifying the landscape since agrarian cultures were established about 5,500 years ago, what exactly is the form of landscape we wish to recreate? The loss of wildflower meadows is often lamented but these were created in the first place by human intervention, so are not really “wild”. The following references give some insight into how early societies changed the landscape.
Many of our best-loved “wild” landscapes such as the Lake District are far from “wild”, having been created in their current form by upland sheep farming.
Rewilding in the UK encompasses many aspects. The most obvious is the restoration of native flora, but before thinking about this aspect we need to consider the land itself. Uplands have been drained, rivers have been straightened, dredged and canalised. Soils have been degraded and compacted by modern agricultural methods and in some cases soil erosion has occurred. This should perhaps be our starting point.
We may also consider whether the reintroduction of extinct native fauna is appropriate. Beavers have been reintroduced (not without some controversy) in some trial projects as one way to improve water/flood management. Once a decision has been made to reintroduce such species we are left with a dilemma: do we also introduce apex predators such as lynx and wolves to control the introduced species, or do we accept that culling programmes will be essential to maintain healthy populations – as is the case with red deer in Scotland?
We would like you to think about the arguments for and against rewilding and what the challenges might be. This could be in the context of our local area, or you could look at it in broader global terms. You should cite your sources of information (preferably indicated in the text) and include a final section indicating your conclusions.
Suggested sources as a starting point:
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2784-9 Abstract only, but some useful statistics and references.
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/833726/landscapes-review-final-report.pdf UK Government report on landscape.
Rewild a quarter of UK to fight climate crisis, campaigners urge https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/may/21/rewild-quarter-uk-fight-climate-crisis-campaigners-urge?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other
And finally, a couple of books recommended by Professor Owen Lewis of Brasenose College, Oxford (who will be awarding the prizes):
- ‘Rewilding’ by Isabella Tree
- ‘Feral’ by George Monbiot (we have ordered three copies of this for the library, hopefully they will arrive before the hols)
- and an interesting article (Isabella Tree set up the Knepp Estate Project which she wrote about in ‘Rewilding’) – Pioneering rewilding project faces ‘catastrophe’ from plan for new houses https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/mar/21/pioneering-rewilding-project-faces-catastrophe-from-plan-for-new-houses?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other
PLEASE EMAIL YOUR ENTRY TO firstname.lastname@example.org
REMEMBER to include your name, school and year group.
CLOSING DATE is Friday 4th June.
WINNERS ANNOUNCED and prizes awarded in the week beginning Monday
28th June. Prizes will be awarded for the winners in each category (KS 3, 4 and 5).
The challenge is open to students in all year groups, in all three Areté Schools – Stokesley, Northallerton and Richmond