Rewilding in the Age of Climate Change
The pace and scale of climate change are truly alarming. Storms, floods, droughts, and wildfires have become more intense and widespread. Wherever you live, shifts in seasonal patterns and surroundings are increasingly noticeable.
Fortunately, awareness of climate change and what’s needed to mitigate it are also growing. Rewilding–the protection and restoration of natural areas and systems–has an important role to play. Rewilding and climate change are closely connected in a few key ways.
Helping nature thrive
Climate change is a key driver of biodiversity loss. Species that have evolved over the course of millennia are now threatened by rapid shifts in their environments, as well as catastrophic events that alter and destroy habitats. This is particularly concerning for plants and animals that depend on unique places, like old forests, coral reefs, and wetlands.
By keeping landscapes wild and connected, rewilding gives animals, trees, and plants more places to live and survive in the face of climate change. When species are able to migrate to new places, they can find new mates and disperse seeds, and in turn maintain genetic variation and develop new populations.
Nature as a climate solution
Scientists around the world know that the twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change must be addressed together. To do this, climate adaptation and mitigation strategies should be guided by whether they support natural systems, rather than risking even more damage to land and waters.
Ultimately, humans must drastically cut greenhouse gases and change our energy, agricultural, and commercial practices. Given this challenge of our times, it’s encouraging that natural diversity and resilience are increasingly recognized as essential to mitigating climate change impacts.
All life depends on the stability and health of natural systems, which regulate weather, keep air and water clean, and so much more. Soils, rocks, plants, and trees have a remarkable ability to store carbon naturally. The many ways that rewilding is being practiced around the world helps forests, oceans, and other natural areas to strengthen the carbon cycle and mitigate climate change.
For more information:
- Presentation by ecologist Carlos Carroll on Rewilding in the Face of Climate Change
- Global Rewilding Alliance, “Animating the Carbon Cycle” overview of the role of intact nature in mitigating climate impacts,
- 2021 report on the interconnections between biodiversity and climate change by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,