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The 3 D’s of Rewilding

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The 3 D’s of Rewilding

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An easy to understand definition of rewilding, based on scientific principles. These 3 dimensions aren’t all or nothing – rewilding is a spectrum and each step along the way will yield results.

Resilience

  • Rewilding is a way of bringing back resilience to ecosystems and helping nature to help ourselves.
  • Before rewilding, humans tried to work against nature to reduce risks from events like wildfire or floods. 
  • Rewilding is about working with nature to bring back natural processes which can protect us from severe events and restore biodiversity.

Rewilding can be broken down into 3 dimensions, which all build back stability:

The 3 D's of Rewilding

Diversity

  • The more species (higher diversity) in a food web, the more stable it is, as losing one species has less impact.
  • Diversity can be improved with reintroductions, especially species which went locally extinct.
  • Wild landscapes should also be diverse, with a rich ‘mosaic’ of habitats providing space for many species.

Disturbance

  • Big and small changes (disturbances) happen constantly in the wild, creating new habitats and opportunities.
  • Dead trees and dead animals are important as they support life and return nutrients to the ground.
  • Landscapes should change over time, especially rivers, where floodplains reduce flooding downstream.

Dispersal

  • Animals and plants must move (disperse) over time to avoid inbreeding or local extinctions e.g. when there’s a flood.
  • Fences, roads, fields and forestry plantations can be a barrier to movement for many species.
  • ‘Wildlife corridors’ connect larger natural areas and help them support bigger populations of animals.

Applying the 3 D’s

The ‘3 D’s’ can be used in all types of environment to try and bring back stability. 

For example, in an aquarium:

A diverse community of species will keep the tank and water clean for longer periods of time; disturbing the plant growth by cutting it back every so often (mimicking herbivore activity) will prevent overgrowth; increasing the size of the tank will improve dispersal and make water chemistry more stable.

See how we applied the 3 D’s in our article on How to Rewild a Field.

Or learn about this concept in more detail in our article What is Rewilding.

Reference

This theory is adapted from Perino et al’s (2019) three principles; ‘trophic complexity’ (i.e. ‘diversity), ‘disturbances’, and ‘dispersal’.

Perino, Andrea, et al. “Rewilding complex ecosystems.” Science 364.6438 (2019).

I also wrote a companion article to this paper.

Further Reading

Since we developed the 3 D’s in 2021, this concept has been further developed into a broader framework for understanding rewilding. You can watch a video, listen to a podcast or read a detailed article about the 3 D’s in our Guides section.

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