John Terborgh: the megafaunal world is bottom-up regulated. Huge animals that are food limited. Take away the megafauna and you move to a world the predators control herbivory. Plants have it easier. There are consequences for plant species abundance and extinction. Here is where I think science has a lot to offer. Then we could make conservation and restoration as a more predictive science
Beth Shapiro: what should the priorities for conservation be? We say we focus on processes then everyone focusses on species
Andrew Balmford: find the idea of rewilding positive, proactive and exciting. The talks this afternoon created a somewhat artificial dichotomy between existing conservation practice and rewilding. In the Anthropocene these rewilding interventions are not sustainable without continued intervention by people. Conservation does always need to thing about what it wants to achieve a how to get there. You need quantitative targets. Standing back and seeing what happens is vulnerable to woolly thinking.From a global conservation perspective we should not lose sight that restoration is a lot more expensive than keeping what is still out there. We shouldn’t lose sight of that.
Frans Vera: Do you have to be a poor country to have space for intact ecosystems. Can we send a signal to the developing world that you can develop and still live with big animals and intact ecosystems
Josh Donlan: The benefits for rewilding will outweigh the costs. Large megafauna captivate the human psyche. There are also potential costs of inaction. The potential risks are overemphasised and benefits understated.
Carlo Meloro: will rewlding just add chaos and entropy?
Frans: there are always objections to be found. But there are always people willing to make this work.
Josh Donlan: funding for rewilding and funding for conservation would not be in competition.
John Terborgh: rewilding is the only hope for conservation which is heading into dead ends. If we can get nature back in a "self-willed state" maybe be can recreate that in places. This problem of exponentially rising endangered species may be ameliorated.
Question: to what extent can rewilding happen in small isolated places, or is landscape level thinking required?
Frans Vera: on any scale as long as you have the perspective of scaling things up. Rewilding is 75% psychology and 25% ecology. The only way to get people to shift their baseline is to have an example
John Terborgh: scale is very important. Even Yellowstone is not big enough to contain stable populations of predators. Need to work at large scale.
Andrew Balmford: you need to think about achieving things at large scales. At small scales the things you want won;t happen
Question: how is rewilding going to help mitigate against climate change? Is it a romantic distraction against stopping the bad stuff happening. Can the ecosystem restored help prevent dangerous climate change?
Jacquelyn Gill: what role can hunting play positive or negative?
Frans Vera: very cultural set of emotions. Netherlands very different in attitudes to USA. The cultural values of hunting would need to be tackled in his context of Netherlands.
Josh Donlan: financing will be an issue and hunting could be a useful revenue stream, and widens the cultural tent of support.
Mauro Galetti: what are the processing that are key to rewilding.
Beth Shapiro: we have to be willing to take risks, There us risk inherent in the process.
John Terborgh: the wildlands Institute takes it as an article of faith that establishing predators is a core element of rewilding. And they have been successful.
Josh Donlan: for megafauna it does go bad it is reversible. "we killed them once, so we can kill them again"
David MacDonald: in case of beavers, the argument that we could kill them if we needed to. This argument was persuasive.
Abby Swann: what about the context of rapid climate change in this system
Frans Vera: we have a total climate change adapted flora and fauna. They moved up and down in the ice ages. The problem is the corridors. We need a working network where large ungulates could move from one region to the other.
Yadvinder Malhi: any ecosystem will find this a huge challenge. We perhaps have more chance to maintain functional ecosystems if we take a functionalist, rewilding approach than a compositionalist approach fixed on species rather than processes.
Sergey Zimov: release of CO2 and methane from permafrost is a threat. Restoring the mammoth steppes can help prevent by covering with productive grasses. This prevents methane release until 4 C warming. Grassland is light in summer vs peatlands. This can assist in summer cooling..
Question: What is the role of science and scientists in the conservation of the future
John Terborgh: the science of alternative states and trophic cascades is essential to preventing extinction.
Cecilia Dahlsjoe: how far are we from a Jurassic Park.
Beth Shapiro: the theoretical upper limit for DNA survival is several hundred thousand. We are pushing 1 million years. The short answer is never!
He will talk about his story: “hey aren’t you that rewilding guy?”
Then what is the larger role of rewilding
The role of science?
How do we scale rewilding?
In the 1990s he was working on eradicating invasive cats from islands in Mexico.
In 2000 he rain into Paul Martin about reintroducing elephants to the southwest USA.
Biodiversity conservation is generally doom and gloom - gets good media but does not make for good strategy
The wild lands project defined rewilding for restoring big wilderness areas based on the regulatory roles of large predators. Everything we know, or believe to be true, is based on an understanding of history.
Key early roles layer by Paul Martin and Dan Janzen
In 2000s, there was a meeting on Ted Turners's ranch in New Mexico. “Can we explore a defensible framework for rewilding?” Two appears called for the restoration of missing ecological functions and the evolutionary potential of lost megafauna using extant cospecifics and related taxa. Paper in Science and Nature.
Widespread public response. Extremely bimodal response, you either loved it or hated it.
Anti-responses: it is ivory tower elitist, imperialistic (stealing Africa’s wildlife), fear of large animals
Pro-responses: to is pro-active, positive, from the ranching community, love of large animals
Many ranchers would bring in elephants tomorrow if they could. They spend a fortune on bull dozers.
We should have included a philosopher
Restoration baselines are dangerous
Rewilding captivates the general public and the media
In conservation biology we are seeing a debate about what is conservation about, gardening vs preserving. We are seeing more disruptive, conservation-based approaches. Most conservation action is probably in the middle.
What role for science? We don’t need any more debate. We need much more data-driven papers, especially when more grassroots and rogue rewilding is happening. Example of Connir Barlow and rogue rewilding
Private funds and fiery souls are taking the lead in rewilding while scientists and policy makers are struggling to keep up.
Rewilding is now mainstream as an idea. How do we scale it up? We need buy-in from stakeholders and private landowners. Chris Sandom has started a business as a Rewilding consultancy., “wild business”. Leverage existing business models - ecotourism doesn’t always work.
Where is the innovation going to come from? Not from science but from design thinking. This is a process for problem-solving for wicked challenges. Interesting diagram of the process of design thinking.
“The greatest impediment to rewilding is an unwillingness to imagine it” - Michale Soule
Rewilding does not occur in a social vacuum. How can the social sciences help the process of rewilding? The case study of the Asian loan can show the politics that build up around megafauna.
1. There is the question about who extirpated species and who wants to bring them back
Wolf eradication in the USA was a highly racial and gendered process
He will focus on the politics of the the Asian lion: extirpation driven by hunting practices of the colonial and Indian princely elite Only in one princely reserve (Gir Forest) was one population preserved.. Cannot be translocated to a second site in India because the state of Gujarat does not want to give them up. Major state-level nationalism has built up around this
2. Megafauna are charismatic. Interesting discussion around the politicisation of the lion.
3. The uses and abuses of science by politicsWhy should lions be moved if they are thriving?
4.Who has the authority to speak and to speculate?
Stakeholders use/abuse science to further their political and monetary gains (citing lions in Gujarat as an example).
5. Dangers of rewilding
Elephants kills 400 people in India every year. Gir cattle farmers lose 70% of their income to lions.
Background to conservation in England. We are very aware that we are conserving a cultural landscapes. What we choose to conserve is a cultural landscape. Recently we have chosen to conserve semi-natural habitats, past management critical. Most land is privately owned. The main task was holding the line against intensification and the destruction of remaining wildlife
In the 1990s things have got better in terms of legislation, and we had time to step back and think about our conservation objectives. We had biodiversity action plans - enabled conservation to move out into landscapes. Had started to thing about more dynamic approaches. Could we create an English rewilding?
Were we talking about trying to create an original natural landscape, or some sort of future natural landscape? Is it important that the animals are wild? Domestic vs wild ponies? What do we do about introductions? Does our future rewilded landscapes include invasive species such as rhododendron?
Finding appropriate areas. Most English protected areas are too small. Upland areas are more extensive but they are poorer quality.
Conservations have to learn to live with uncertainty. Rewilding is inherently unpredictable, and conservationists want to learn to hold back
Ways forward: we are going to need large areas
Interesting sketch graph of human influences trajectory since the Neolithic
We have one chance to get it right or we are stuck with bad publicity.
Alladale wilderness reserve. Landscape is dominated by heather moorland, only 5% cover.
Story about how much work is involved in managing a Scottish wildeness reserve. Why does it takes much so much work
Rewilding = restoration of ecosystem processes, but also while maintaining diversity and having a role for people
Theory of community assembly rules:
(1) Total species pool -> dispersal filtering -> (2) geographical species pool -> environmental filtering -> (3) habitat species pool -> internal ecosystem dynamics -> (4) actual species pool
Human perturbations include species extinction, (affect (1)), human dispersal barriers and non-native introduction (affect 2), human environment and climate change (affect 3), and functional suppression of species (affect 4)
Restoration and rewilding manage these perturbations
With that in mind, how can we apply to Scotland?
Ecosystem architecture. We want to put the components of an ecosystem back together. Herbivores and predators. Interesting analogy. In past we have megaherbivores that were unpredated. Now we have mesoherbivores that are uncredited.
They have introduced bison, highland cattle, boars,
Which species would we start with? We should start with the wolf , which gives an opportunity for woodland and woodland species such as boar. This may enable the creation of a totipotent state.
Wolf density needs to be above 90 per 1000 sw km to see a strong reduction in deer population.
He has questions about ecosystem architecture. If we cannot bring elephants into Scotland, maybe be should have introductions that mimic that architecture?
She proposes a definition of rewilding. It would include
1. A species (re-)introduction
2. An ecological effect
3. A significant social impact/imvolvememt
Each project should argue for its interpretation of how to do this within its socio-ecological context.
She sees ten key challenges:
1. What is the role of humans?
On one hand, what kind of management do you want? Traditional conservation involves lots of management by humans. Rewilding is an opportunity to be hands-off.
On another, there is another issue around the cultural involvement of people with the rewilding. People interact with nature in a variety of ways.
Nice photos from Charles Frefer, Wildermann
2. Dealing with Grendels
When you have a domestic species that you rewild this involves many institutional problems, is it domestic or wild?
There is an opportunity: can we create Grendel species?
3. Non-analogue rewilding?
Is this OK? Yes from a functionalist approach, no from a compositionalist approach
4. Justifying baselines
If you want a particular baseline, you can find it. What people need to think about is not “did this really happen in the past” but rather to tell a story that people are concerned by.
5. Can we rewild with small species?
Small species are also important
6. Dealing with scale
How small is too small to rewind?
7. Dealing with sample size and pseudo-replication
8. When to rewild with carnivores? Problem of both difficulty and perception of human-wildlife conflict
9. Rewilding vs. Zoos
Zoos play a useful role. Some large zoos look like rewilding, without the habitat restoration. Make zoos more like rewilding.
10. Integrating interdisciplinarity, monitoring and assessment
Devastating decline of forest elephants in Central AfricaForest elephants separated from savanna elephants about 5 million years ago. Poaching for ivory is the main cause of decline. Many central African countries have opened up their forests to selective logging and mining concessions - this enables access for poachers. The result of this is road networks that have been proliferating. Shows map of road access in West/Central Africa by 2032.
The result is massive range reduction of African elephants. In 1980 there were 1.2 million African elephants, now there are around 250,000, down to 200,000 by 2020?
They conduced elephant surveys - line transects or reconnaissance walks through the forests. Count the dung counted per km walked. Relate to human population density, distance from roads, whether the sites have guards or not. Corruption was also highly correlated. Most ivory poaching driven by international crime cartels.
Map of elephant density. Functional density of elephants has plummeted everywhere except Gabon. Startling map.
Consequences of forest elephant loss:
!. No seed dispersal of elephant obligate trees. This guild
Beaune et al (20130 For Ecol Management Doom of the elephant dependent trees in a Congo tropical rainforest
Blake et al (2009) Forest elephants - tree planters of the Congo
2. Forest clearings close up (e.g. bais)
3. Nutrient dispersal may be restricted (Doughty et al 2013 Nature Geoscience)
The elephant decline is documented in these papers:
Maisels et al 2013 PLos One and Mailsels et al 2014 for update
In our minds there are background of natural archetypes or conservation frames , e.g the pastoral frame of rural England, the uplands frame of Scottish Highlands, the high forest frame of central Europe.
In Europe, the main idea was conserving benchmark types. In the pastoral landscapes there were birds and species that were evoking a rural ideal. As these landscapes became endangered, there were directives and educational practices aimed at locking these ideals. At the same time, conservation institutions emerging around particular views of nature. Compositionalist archetypes - fundamentally about the conservation of species.
The rewilding frame: really quite different. With these conservation institutions we have lost sight of what is it that we want to preserve.
The compositionalist paradigm focuses on notions of balance, representative, benchmark, cultural conservatism.
The functionalist paradigm is more about flux, dynamic disequilibrium, no-analogue species assemblages. Rewilding is much more about uncertainty, more open to letting the biotic interactions decide future pathways.
Institutions exhibit path-dependency and resist change.
1. Where do re-wilded species fit into conservation legislation?
2. If habitat structure becomes dynamic and uncertain how can this align with legal requirements to maintain favourable conditions?
3. Are they wild or domestic?
5. Rubs up against animal welfare sentiments.
6Antagonises farming lobbies
However, European conservation institutions are ageing. Most primary legislation is reviewed on generation cycles. Current directives in Europe are more than a generation old. The legislation is very prescriptive and inflexible and there are emerging tensions.
This idea that we can keep rare animals from a pastoral past is looking silly, example of the European hamster, a steppe species that came in with agriculture. It costs 1300 euros per hamster to breed them
What is nature for a multi-cultural Europe? Is a pastoral archetype the right archetype. Is a rewilding frame a better archetype for nature going ahead. This is an archetype that a lot of European citizens are watching in nature documentaries.
Example of restoration of Yorkshire post-mining landscapes.
Is going forward with old conservation institutions delivering the best we could deliver for society. Maybe we can offer the rewilding option. Rewilding could be put forward as a new natural archetype complementary to the other archetypes.
Rewilding - a new network of conservation sites. What we are doing with rewilding sites is not preserve landscapes. They are more ecological experimentation sites. This network of sites is not there to please traditional conservation, but to unsettle people and reignite a public debate on our relationship with nature.
The community of people keen on rewilding need to start making a case to policy makers. A key opportunity for Europe.
Rewilding is a radical practice and has the potential to male us rethink what we mean by nature
Alternative title: what the popular media would like to see happen in our science?
She looks at ancient biomolecules in permafrost deposits
Plan A clone a mammoth?
She explains the process of cloning in the case of Dolly the Sheep.
But this will not work. Somatic cell nuclear transfer. There are no intact cells because the cells in an organism immediately break down at the time of death. There is a race between freezing and degradation. In a large bodied mammal, there is always enough time for degradation
Conclusion: Plan A not possible
Plan B: sequence a mammoth
She explains the principle of mammoth sequencing. Currently we have 50% of mammoth genome. But the samples have a lot of DNA, but most of it is not mammoth (bacteria etc colonise). Sequences are short. More confetti DNA rather than part streamers.
But for mammoth we can map to modern elephant genomes. But the only bits we can do with confidence is where the DNA is similar to modern elephants, not where it is different
Conclusion: Plan B not possible
Plan C: paste in bits of a mammoth DNA into the elephant DNA. Modern techniques are good.
The challenge is targeting. CRIPRS are a new technology that can help with targeting
What part of the Asian elephant genome do we change (5-8 million years of separate evolution). We know one gene affects mammoth hair colour. We can make an elephant with red hair.
Another group discovered chains that distinguish mammoth haemoglobin from elephant one to improve oxygen binding. This could improve cold adaptation.
The mammoth restoration project is aiming to make these changes - luxuriant red hair and mammoth haemoglobin.
Conclusion: Plan C is in principle do-able in bits, but problems with coming up with a mammoth. A mammoth is more than the sum of its nucleotides. Epigenetics, gene expression as a result of environment.
Then there are legal and ethical questions
Article: How to permit your mammoth: some legal challenges. Is it a
Paul Ehrlich article : the case against de-extinction
It is a myth that major funding is going to de-extinction. It is not competing with conservation
Stewart Brand article: the case for de-extinction
If it looks like a mammoth and acts like a mammoth, it’s good enough for me. We should not focus on bringing back a species, we should bring back something that has properties of a mammoth.
Chris Johnson: what about mitochondrial genes?
Jacquelyn Gill: how would a mammoth act like a mammoth without learning?