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Rewilding big and small

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How are we going to meet our 30×30 commitment – to have functioning nature across 30% of our land by 2030? The experiment to rewild 3,500 acres of former arable land at Knepp in West Sussex shows that rewilding has enormous potential both to improve existing areas designated for nature, and create diverse, dynamic ecosystems on land that, as yet, has little value for wildlife. It can also contribute significantly to the capture of carbon. The latest findings from Knepp show that, more than twenty years after the project began, biodiversity and abundance of life continues to rise, and rare species (including some thought to be extinct in the UK) continue to discover the site. A recent study of soil carbon suggests rewilding could capture as much carbon as a young plantation – in the soil alone. Rolling out rewilding – creating biodiversity ‘hotspots’ and the corridors to connect them – will be one of the most effective ways of combating climate change and reversing biodiversity loss. The interventions needed to kickstart and sustain natural processes on depleted land will depend, largely, on the size of the area. There is no too small.

Isabella Tree an award-winning journalist and author, and lives with her husband, the conservationist Charlie Burrell, in the middle of a pioneering rewilding project in West Sussex, on the Knepp Estate. the author of six non-fiction books. Her book Wilding, the story of the ambitious journey she and Charlie undertook to rewild their farm, has sold over 300,000 copies worldwide and been translated into 8 languages. It won the Richard Jefferies prize for nature writing, was shortlisted for the Wainwright prize and was one of the Smithsonian’s top ten science books for 2018. In 2020 Isabella was awarded a CIEEM Medal for her contribution to ecology and environmental management, and in 2021 she received the Royal Geographical Society’s Ness Award. She served on the Mayor of London’s 2022/3 Rewilding London Task Force. The Book of Wilding – a practical guide to rewilding big and small is published by Bloomsbury (2023) and has been described as ‘a handbook of hope’ and ‘an indispensable guide to the restoration of the living planet’.

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This talk is part of the CCI Conservation Seminar Series 2023 series.

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