Saving and restoring wilderness

What is wilderness?

Wilderness can be defined as nature that is pristine and essentially unspoiled by man. However, most large-scale ecosystems or biomes have in some way or another been touched by the hands of man, either completely destroyed or at least tainted. Today even the remotest parts of the world, including remaining primary old-growth or rainforests, desert areas and the polar regions, are being directly or indirectly influenced by man, for instance through higher order environmental effects like climate change. Even the deep sea, until recently (sub)terra icognita, is now being explored for exploitation.

Burrowing parrots in Argentina. By E. van Maanen.

The term rewilding has an ambitous connotation, but it also entails opportunities other than ‘saving’ far away places with large roaming herbivore herds chased about by big predators. Wild nature can also be experienced, conserved and restored close to home. It is about interweaving nature and human ambitions. Paramount however is the restoring of trophic cascades and other ecological functions and processes as best and complete as possible, even without big predators. Smaller so-called mesopredators matter as well, as do herbivores, and even more inconspicuous smaller critters can be key to healthy ecosystems (more about keystone species). Rewilding is about caring for landscape and biological diversity, no matter what scale is involved, but preferably realization at larger scales.

Space, natural quality and inner peace: the experience of wilderness in the Tasmanian Tarkine. Photo by E. van Maanen.