Rewilding landscapes using elements of agricultural practices could help restore ecosystems and produce high-quality food, researchers say.
“Agricultural rewilding” could also help address concerns about the livelihood impact of rewilding and produce “win-win” environmental and human benefits, the researchers said.
Agricultural rewilding involves restoring ecosystems through the introduction, management and production of livestock with domesticated species (usually hardy, native breeds) that act as analogs to their wild counterparts.
Researchers say that combining rewilding and farming in this way helps address some of the key issues related to rewilding: the exclusion of people and agricultural work from the land and reduction of food self-sufficiency.
It can also support the production of high quality, high welfare meat that is environmentally, ethically and financially sustainable.
Conventionally, rewilding attempts to remove or reduce human intervention in a landscape to restore damaged ecosystems. Researchers argue that agricultural rewilding can bring ecological benefits such as habitat restoration, tree planting and natural flood management, while still allowing human management of the land.
The paper was first presented at the conference of the European Society for Agricultural and Food Ethics and is now published in Food Systems Transformation: Ethics, Innovation and Responsibility. The work was a collaboration between Virginia Thomas of the University of Exeter, England, and Aymeric Mondière, Michael Corson and Hayo van der Werf of the French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment.
dr. Thomas said: “Agricultural rewilding offers the potential for win-win scenarios in which biodiversity is increased and ecosystems are restored, along with active human intervention in landscapes and livelihoods that are financially and environmentally sustainable. Agricultural rewilding can potentially have biodiversity benefits compared to conventional rewilding, as it can create and maintain habitats that could be lost in hands-off rewilding and the loss of which would threaten habitat-specialized species. In addition, extensive farming as part of agricultural rewilding offers a advantage over more intensive farming in that animals can be kept in natural conditions and in accordance with high welfare standards.”
He concluded: “Pets can be present in the landscape, restoring biodiversity and ecosystem function, while still contributing to agricultural production, where their lives are lived to high welfare and environmental standards, yielding high-quality dead meat and so on.” contributes to food self-sufficiency and reduces the outsourcing of food production to systems with greater environmental impact.Meanwhile, livestock management enables continued active human intervention in the landscape, supporting livelihoods in rural and communities .”
Rewilding efforts in England are on a smaller scale compared to efforts in other countries, study argues
V. Thomas et al, 24. Domesticating Rewilding: Combining Rewilding and Agriculture Provides Environmental and Human Benefits, Food Systems Transformation: Ethics, Innovation and Responsibility (2022). DOI: 10.3920/978-90-8686-939-8_24
Quote: Agricultural rewilding could help restore the environment and support high-wealth food production, say researchers (2022, Sept. 29) retrieved Sept. 29, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-09- agricultural-rewilding-environment- production-high-welfare.html
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