Aurochs on the Prairie

Photo of Lascaux painting by Prof saxx The New York Times recently highlighted a rewilding project in Spain, where conservationists are going beyond eco-preservation efforts to restore wilderness that disappeared centuries ago.

Several hurdles are striking—beyond anything I considered in the prairie restoration efforts in the U.S.:

  • Breeding to reintroduce “primitive” bovines that will graze like aurochs once did. Alternatively, some projects are reintroducing wild horses, red deer, ibex, and the European bison. The large herbivores are needed to reduce the thick vegetation that will otherwise take over abandoned farmland and smothering biodiversity…

    Of course we know that means reintroducing bears, lynx, and wolves to keep herbivore populations in check once they are established.Neighboring landowners complain (already) about the development of bison populations.

    In North America, the social/political side-effects of reintroducing wild species continues, especially focusing on the grey wolf.

  • “We don’t see any scientific papers coming out of any of these projects… Using proxies [for extinct species] is a risk,” says an ecologist from Columbia University.

    and

    “Rewilders say they are too impatient to wait for controlled experiments to be set up. Science is not their goal…” [quoting the article]

    and

    “You can do a lot of things against nature … but when you want to put it back, the red tape is awful,” says the communications director for Rewilding Europe.

  • The rewilding efforts involve purchasing and repurposing abandoned agricultural land. Where are the stories about the large-scale abandonment of agriculture in Europe? Was I absent the day that this issue was discussed at length?

    I’m curious, because I’m from Oregon, where some of the most fertile land in the world is now given over almost totally to turf and ornamental plants. And I now live in Washington, where other extraordinarily fertile farmland is now paved over, first for Boeing and then for large-scale warehouses and light industrial.

More background:

  • Wild Retuertas horses being reintroduced in Spain
  • Rewilding Europe – “By changing our perspective from traditional nature conservation towards a more development oriented approach, the reference point for European nature changes too. A reference point that is no longer based in the past but in the future, towards landscapes that are governed by essential natural processes, which create the necessary space for all of our original animals and plants, including man.”
  • Campanarios de Azaba – The transnational project to advance biodiversity in the Iberian west, involving “mature Mediterranean forests, rocky cliffs, wooded grasslands, and river ecosystems…interspersed between private farm.”
  • In the U.S.: Defenders of Wildlife

Credits: Photo of Lascaux painting by Prof saxx from wikipedia

 

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