The differences between rewilding and restoring an ecologically degraded landscape, du Toit & Pettorelli 2019

Compendium Volume 4 Number 1 July 2020

This commentary distinguishes between restoration and rewilding of ecosystems, explaining that the latter aims at ecological adaptation to novel local environmental conditions wrought by global climate change. By contrast, restoration, as defined here, aims to recreate and maintain an historical state or condition of an ecosystem, regardless of current environmental conditions.

Although the two words are often conflated,

Rewilding is thus conceptually different from restoring. It is an adaptive approach to conserving ecological functionality under changing environmental conditions, to which historical benchmarks are less relevant than to restoring. It inherently acknowledges and promotes unpredictability, while placing the emphasis on function over species composition [du Toit & Pettorelli 2019: 2].

The authors assert that rewilding is better suited to preserving biodiversity and ecosystem function under present and future conditions.

It is difficult to imagine how conserving biodiversity and ecosystem services could be possible in predicted future scenarios without rewilding. Simply stated, anthropogenic environmental forcing makes ecosystem restoration a diminishing option [du Toit & Pettorelli 2019: 4].

For the full PDF version of the compendium issue where this article appears, visit Compendium Volume 4 Number 1 July 2020