The 3 D’s of Rewilding
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.
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 three steps, which all build back stability:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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