Reversing Biodiversity Loss

Landscape restoration provides opportunities for species recovery by creating naturally functioning ecosystems that support abundant and resilient populations of plants and animals.

The Endangered Landscapes Programme aims to restore natural landscapes so that they can support a rich diversity of animal and plant life. The wildlife being brought back to these places ranges from iconic large mammals, such as wolves and European bison, to undervalued species that provide vital ecosystem functions – such as beetles that live in dead wood, or native plant communities such as Caledonian pine forest in the Scottish Highlands.

For most projects, their approach is to create the conditions for wildlife comeback, by increasing the quality and extent of natural habitat, or reducing human pressures enough to allow recovery. This is often in response to species which have shown steep declines in the recent past, such as the Mediterranean monk seal in Turkey.

In some cases, however, reintroductions of appropriate species are necessary to catalyse landscape recovery. In some projects, keystone species, which provide a disproportionately large effect on the ecosystem, such as red deer and beavers, will be reintroduced into landscapes from which they have been lost. Large herbivores such as bison will create disturbance, and hence increase the heterogeneity of habitats. Beavers will change the patterns of water flow in streams and rivers, with positive effects on freshwater vegetation and fish; and an increase in populations of prey such as rabbits will allow the recovery of predators like Iberian lynx.

“When talking about intact ecosystems, we always need to ask: ‘What is missing?'”   –  Daniel Bucur, Project Manager at FCC

Resilient ecosystems depend on the presence of complex communities of species, connected to each other by an intricate web of interactions. Key interactions between species include predation, herbivory, disturbance, scavenging and decomposition. More complex communities are likely to be more resilient to stresses such as climate change, novel pathogens and disturbances from floods or fire.

The large scale of the projects in the Endangered Landscapes Programme allows recovery and movement of species that depend on large areas of connected, natural habitat. These species include predators at the top of the food chain, such as wolf and greater spotted eagle, that maintain large territories, meaning that they live at low densities and need vast areas of habitat to maintain viable populations. They also include fish populations that need free-flowing rivers without dams. By re-connecting natural areas at a landscape level, the ELP will enable sustainable populations of such species to return to the landscape, for their functional benefit as well as the wonder they inspire.

Red Squirrel RSPB Images

Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris, in Scots pine tree, Loch Garten RSPB reserve.

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