Restoration optimism: Bringing nature back (commentary)

Restoration optimism: Bringing nature back (commentary)

I sit huddled in the hide, the sharp winter air stinging my cheeks and making my eyes tear up. Blinking, I catch sight of movement in the reeds. Out steps a bittern — a strange, heavy brown heron, once extinct in these parts. Cameras click excitedly around me as the bird slowly walks out of a patch of reeds, crosses bare ground, and then disappears again, swallowed by the swaying vegetation. Grinning from ear to ear, I am exhilarated by this close sighting. But the best part is knowing that, a little over 20 years ago, there were no hides, no reeds, and no bitterns; this was a carrot field, the peat soils drained and plowed. But, thanks to clever restoration efforts, nature has come back to Lakenheath Fen in the east of England. It gives me a huge sense of optimism to know that habitat loss is not the only possible direction of travel — habitat gain is also possible, even in manicured, intensively farmed Europe. Habitat restoration is a hot topic right now. Robin Chazdon, Executive Director of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation, gave a plenary talk at at the International Congress for Conservation Biology entitled ‘Is Restoration the New Conservation?’ (A similar talk can be viewed here.) She is one of the leaders of PARTNERS, People and Reforestation in the Tropics, which aims to research the human and environmental impacts of restoration. ‘Rewilding’ is also big news, from Europe to South America, with ‘Feral’ by…

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