From ScienceForSustainability
Jump to: navigation, search

Rewilding Britain

E.O. Wilson Wants Us to Leave Half of the Earth Alone — Here's Why

Can the World Really Set Aside Half of the Planet for Wildlife? Tony Hiss; Smithsonian Magazine; Sept 2014

The eminent evolutionary biologist E.O. Wilson has an audacious vision for saving Earth from a cataclysmic extinction event

Rewilding: Who are we to dictate what species live where? John Burnside; New Statesman; 28 Aug 2013

The idea of “rewilding” the environment with depleted species seems sound. But, warns John Burnside, we mustn’t manipulate the world — which wasn’t built around us — just to suit our impractical fantasies.

Thinking Like an Elephant George Monbiot; 15 Jun 2015

Status and Ecological Effects of the World’s Largest Carnivores

Large carnivores face serious threats and are experiencing massive declines in their populations and geographic ranges around the world. We highlight how these threats have affected the conservation status and ecological functioning of the 31 largest mammalian carnivores on Earth. Consistent with theory, empirical studies increasingly show that large carnivores have substantial effects on the structure and function of diverse ecosystems. Significant cascading trophic interactions, mediated by their prey or sympatric mesopredators, arise when some of these carnivores are extirpated from or repatriated to ecosystems. Unexpected effects of trophic cascades on various taxa and processes include changes to bird, mammal, invertebrate, and herpetofauna abundance or richness; subsidies to scavengers; altered disease dynamics; carbon sequestration; modified stream morphology; and crop damage. Promoting tolerance and coexistence with large carnivores is a crucial societal challenge that will ultimately determine the fate of Earth’s largest carnivores and all that depends upon them, including humans.

Top Predators

When wolves return to the wild, everything changes Yao-Hua Law; BBC Earth; 17 May 2017

Account of reintroduction of top predators in various parts of the world - not just the Yellowstone wolves - and discussion of the pro and cons of interfering with top predtor / mesopredator relationships.

Yellowstone wolves

How Wolves Change Rivers George Monbiot

How reintroducing wolves helped save a famous park BBC


Is the Wolf a Real American Hero? New York Times

Maybe Wolves Don’t Change Rivers, After All Richard Conniff; Strange Behaviours (blog); 10 Mar 2014

... reintroducing wolves to their former home range across the American West is a major benefit to wildlife and healthy habitats. It is also essential. All this article says is that the results are not as quick or simple as some environmentalists want to believe:

Wolf Reintroduction Is Great, But Probably Not A Miraculous Landscape-Changer Iida Ruishalme; Thoughtscapism; 27 Jan 2018

Perhaps you’ve seen one of these videoclips: the scene opens up of wolves galloping in the snow, then landscapes of rivers and mountains opening up before you. Pictures of deer and elk, bears, bison, beavers, badgers, foxes, eagles, and so on, are paraded before us to beautiful music. They are all told to be living again in harmony and balance, thanks to one factor: wolves. You hear the exalted voice of George Monbiot saying things like “Birds began to return to the park!” and “But this is where it gets truly remarkable, it turns out that reintroduction of wolves even changes the course of rivers!”
Large predators are an important part of upholding the balance of ecosystems, for sure. But does an ecosystem “miraculously” return back to normal, including its physical landscape, by introduction of one of its main predators, 70 years after its removal?
Uplifting videos, like the ones produced by the Sustainable Human and the National Geographic, certainly do a good job convincing us that this is what has in fact happened. They are truly lovely (if a tad melodramatic) stories, too. But I think they would be better if they were accurate.

Pine Martens and squirrels

Population crash in an invasive species following the recovery of a native predator: the case of the American grey squirrel and the European pine marten in Ireland

Devon Beavers

Beavers at work ... Devon dwellers reveal their flair for fighting floods Dan Glaister; Guardian; 14 Feb 2016

After a 400-year absence, the industrious rodents are back. On a river near Okehampton their reintroduction has led to biodiversity and cleaner water
The Devon project targets three key indicators: water storage, flood attenuation and water quality. The beavers are, they believe, helping in all three. The 13 dams they have built along the 150 metres stretch of water have increased water storage capacity, evened out the flow of water and improved the quality of the water that emerges from the dams.

Scientific evidence proves the value of British beavers Rewilding Britain; 20 Sep 2016

Exeter University study shows how a Devon rewilding project has dramatically lowered downstream pollution and reduced flood risk
Research was undertaken at the Devon Beaver Project, a controlled reintroduction programme in South West England.
In early spring 2011, a pair of Eurasian beavers was introduced to a three-hectare enclosure – roughly the same as 4.5 football pitches – on a stream in the headwaters of the River Tamar. Their activity on the site, according to the report from the University of Exeter, has “created a complex wetland environment, dominated by ponds, dams and an extensive canal network.”
This, in turn, has led to benefits including:
  • Increased water storage within the site and a reduction in water flow out of it. This is due to the way the beavers have engineered the environment. The report says “this is highly likely for the observed attenuating impact upon flood flows across a range of storm event sizes”.
  • Reduced sediment, nitrogen and phosphate. Combined with reduced flows, this has resulted in significantly lower pollutants downstream.
The full report is called Eurasian beaver activity increases water storage, attenuates flow and mitigates diffuse pollution from intensively-managed grasslands and can be seen on the sciencedirect website.

Eurasian beaver activity increases water storage, attenuates flow and mitigates diffuse pollution from intensively-managed grasslands Alan Puttock, Hugh A. Graham, Andrew M. Cunliffe, Mark Elliott, Richard E. Brazier; Science of The Total Environment; 15 Jan 2017

  • Beavers in wooded site, on first order tributary draining from agricultural land.
  • Beaver activity has resulted in major changes to ecosystem structure at the site.
  • Beaver activity increased water storage within site and attenuated flow.
  • Reduced sediment, N and P, but more DOC in water leaving site.
  • Important implications for nature based solutions to catchment management issues.
Beavers are the archetypal keystone species, which can profoundly alter ecosystem structure and function through their ecosystem engineering activity, most notably the building of dams. This can have a major impact upon water resource management, flow regimes and water quality. Previous research has predominantly focused on the activities of North American beaver (Castor canadensis) located in very different environments, to the intensive lowland agricultural landscapes of the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe.
Two Eurasian beavers (Castor fiber) were introduced to a wooded site, situated on a first order tributary, draining from intensively managed grassland. The site was monitored to understand impacts upon water storage, flow regimes and water quality. Results indicated that beaver activity, primarily via the creation of 13 dams, has increased water storage within the site (holding ca. 1000 m3 in beaver ponds) and beavers were likely to have had a significant flow attenuation impact, as determined from peak discharges (mean 30 ± 19% reduction), total discharges (mean 34 ± 9% reduction) and peak rainfall to peak discharge lag times (mean 29 ± 21% increase) during storm events. Event monitoring of water entering and leaving the site showed lower concentrations of suspended sediment, nitrogen and phosphate leaving the site (e.g. for suspended sediment; average entering site: 112 ± 72 mg l− 1, average leaving site: 39 ± 37 mg l− 1). Combined with attenuated flows, this resulted in lower diffuse pollutant loads in water downstream. Conversely, dissolved organic carbon concentrations and loads downstream were higher. These observed changes are argued to be directly attributable to beaver activity at the site which has created a diverse wetland environment, reducing downstream hydrological connectivity. Results have important implications for beaver reintroduction programs which may provide nature based solutions to the catchment-scale water resource management issues that are faced in agricultural landscapes.


references in the video description; also (from a comment):
It has previously been asserted that baleen whales compete with fisheries by consuming potentially harvestable marine resources. The regularly applied “surplus-yield model” suggests that whale prey becomes available to fisheries if whales are removed, and has been presented as a justification for whaling. However, recent findings indicate that whales enhance ecosystem productivity by defecating iron that stimulates primary productivity in iron-limited waters. While juvenile whales and whales that are pregnant or lactating retain iron for growth and milk production, nonbreeding adult whales defecate most of the iron they consume. Here, we modify the surplus-yield model to incorporate iron defecation. After modeling a simplistic trajectory of blue whale recovery to historical abundances, the traditional surplus-yield model predicts that 1011 kg of carbon yr−1 would become unavailable to fisheries. However, this ignores the nutrient recycling role of whales. Our model suggests the population of blue whales would defecate 3 × 106 kg of iron yr−1, which would stimulate primary production equivalent to that required to support prey consumption by the blue whale population. Thus, modifying the surplus-yield model to include iron defecation indicates that blue whales do not render marine resources unavailable to fisheries. By defecating iron-rich feces, blue whales promote Southern Ocean productivity, rather than reducing fishery yields.
Whales facilitate carbon absorption in two ways. On the one hand, their movements — especially when diving — tend to push nutrients from the bottom of the ocean to the surface, where they feed the phytoplankton and other marine flora that suck in carbon, as well as fish and other smaller animals. The other ... is by producing fecal plumes. “In other words, pooing,” ... “That also introduces nutrients that create marine plants in the area. These plants use photosynthesis, which absorbs carbon, thus enhancing the carbon capture process.”
But as waters steadily grow warmer, whales may not be able to survive in the region. It’s difficult to predict just how climate change will affect the species, said Barefoot, because they’re part of a complicated ecosystem with many interlinked species.

Recovery: The Miracle on Palmyra TED WILLIAMS; Cool Green Science; 15 Dec 2015

Elimination of rats and recovery of native wildlife on Palmyra Atoll, a thousand miles south of Hawaiʻi

Artificial reefs / subway cars

Stunning Photos Showing NYC Subway Cars Being Dumped Into the Ocean Viral Forest

What Ever Happened to All Those Subway Cars We Dumped into the Atlantic? Starre Vartan; Mental Floss; 28 Nov 2015

Simon Thorrold, a scientist in the biology department at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, told mental_floss, “There is no doubt that if you put subway cars into areas with little hard structure, they will attract invertebrates, and then they will attract fish.”
But it’s hard to know whether that additional habitat is increasing fish populations or just moving them around, “The question is: Are you increasing productivity? Or just aggregating fish that are [already] there?" Thorrold says. "If it's the latter, you just make the fish easier to catch. Which is not necessarily bad, but you can't claim that the reef is adding fish."