The destiny of mankind is closely linked to the earth, and we have been thriving on the earth for millions of years. Anywhere on this 4.5 billion-year-old planet, you can find traces of human existence, such as roads through forests or farmland on grasslands. With the development of the earth, human activities occupy the living circle of wildlife, so that the once active animals and plants are reduced or even extinct, such as dodos and spotted birds.
The extinction of animals means the reduction of biodiversity, and biodiversity is very important for maintaining ecological balance. In particular, we humans also live in the big biosphere of the earth and are also an important link in the ecosystem. The reduction of biodiversity is enormous and will affect humans. For example, the recent frequent forest fires are associated with the disappearance of large herbivores, and the reduction of plants also reduces the ability of ecosystems to withstand flooding.
More than 20 years ago, some scientists put forward the idea of letting nature return to the wild. This practice of “repairing the dead, not too late” is called “re-wildification.” Scientists hope that the wilderness will restore the structure of the ecosystem, allowing the biosphere to have greater tolerance and resilience in the face of some disasters. However, changing an ecosystem is not an easy task, and even in the face of successful experiences, no one dares to act rashly.
“Wolf group effect”
Since the early 1990s, more and more people have advocated the re-wildification of species. Its main strategy is to protect or introduce key species to reshape ecosystems while reducing human disturbance. There are many examples of this in natural landscapes, such as the reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone National Park in the United States in 1995.
You may be wondering, will the wolf not kill a lot of animals? In fact, wolves will also bring survival opportunities to other species.
In the early 20th century, the United States established the Yellowstone Nature Reserve. In 1914, in order to protect the deer in the park, people began to hunt the wolf. By 1926, all the wolves in the park were eliminated. Before the wolves returned to the Yellowstone ecosystem, they had been absent for 70 years. During this period, the deer had no natural enemies and continued to grow, leaving the park’s vegetation almost devastated.
Although the newly introduced wolves are not dominant in number and cannot immediately reduce the number of deer, they change the behavior of the deer. The deer began to deliberately avoid specific areas that were vulnerable to ambushes, such as river valleys and canyons, and these places quickly revived. In some areas, the trees grow rapidly, and the bare river valleys are covered with poplar, weeping willow, and cottonwood forests. With this happening, the birds begin to enter the main forest, and the number of songbirds and migratory birds has increased significantly. .
There are trees to provide delicacies, and the family of beavers flourishes. Like wolves, beavers are also ecosystem engineers, creating new niches for other species, and beavers built in rivers for otters, moles, ducks, fish, and amphibians. It is a good habitat.
The introduction of the wolves has also changed the “behavior” of the river. The reborn forest reinforces the embankment of the river, and the river bank no longer collapses as often as before, so the river trend stabilizes, the twists and turns of the river bay decrease, the erosion of the river bank weakens, the river narrows, and more rivers form. Water pools and shoals. In short, the introduction of the wolves has transformed the entire Yellowstone National Park, not only changing the ecosystem, but also transforming the geographic form.
We can see that nature is actually more complicated and subtle than we think. All we have to do is bring some lost species back to their original place, and nature will exert magical power to restore vitality and wildness.
Three key factors
Although there have been successful cases of introducing large wild animals, many people still have concerns about the return of wild animals. Because the ecosystem is dynamic and complex, if people simply create protected areas and game reserves, or rush to introduce a species, no one can say what will happen.
So, what should we pay attention to when re-wilding the natural environment?
In a region, more large herbivores, such as cattle, moose, antelope, etc., mean that they produce more feces, which will help the soil fertilize and maintain plant growth to support other herbivores. In addition, the emergence of more herbivores means that meat and scavengers have more food. At the same time, animals wandering around means they carry more pollen across the area to help the plants multiply.
In a biological system, all plants and animals complement each other. The more animals and plants that have different roles, the better the ecosystem can control itself. Therefore, specific re-wildification measures must consider the complexity of the ecosystem food chain.
The second thing to note is natural interference. In fact, small fires in the forest are beneficial. They can increase the nutrients of the soil. At the same time, the burned area has no combustible materials, which is equivalent to a natural fire barrier, which can avoid the spread of large fires. But if these fires occur too close to where humans are frequently active, we will put out these small fires and increase the likelihood of a bigger, more devastating fire in the future. In addition, artificial cleaning of small natural disasters may also affect the survival of some insects. They sometimes treat a tree burned by a fire as their new home.
Finally, consider the distribution of these organisms. In the ecosystem, free-living animals are better able to avoid other animals that might compete with them for resources, and there are more opportunities to choose partners, which increases the genetic diversity of their species.
Under the premise of considering three key factors, the specific approach should be specifically analyzed. In order to increase the diversity of the food chain, we need to first figure out which species are missing in a region. For example, the Netherlands began to introduce European bison in 2007. The European bison lived in the Netherlands but disappeared due to hunting. The introduction of bison is a coastal dune area in the Netherlands. The forest, grassland and shrubs of the area have been mixed, but the ecosystem is suffering from some plants, such as hawthorn, which have short thorns that will cut other herbivores. The large size (average weight 610 kg) and the thick and thick bison are not affected by the hawthorn. When they walk, the small hawthorn will be easily stepped down, opening up a living area for other species, to a certain extent. On, prevented the expansion of the hawthorn. There are many similar examples, the British reintroduction of beavers, the introduction of giant tortoises in the Galapagos Islands and so on.
In addition, the process of wildlife requires the participation of ordinary people and experts to find out where humans may hinder the natural development of ecosystems. For example, excessively reclaiming forest land for agriculture and the like.
In the end, there is no such thing as a once-and-for-all thing in the world, and the process of re-wildification is the same. Ecosystems are dynamic, so measures must also be dynamic. In the same example, the Netherlands introduced only three European bison in 2007. After observing their impact on the ecosystem, another three were introduced in 2008. At the same time, the local government tracked the situation in the region in the next 10 years, and it was not until 2017 that the success of the re-wildification project was announced.
Extension of wilderness
In addition to the Earth’s biosphere, the human body is also a “biosphere” in which various microorganisms live together, and some microorganisms are essential for our health. However, with the advancement of urbanization, people live more in urban environments filled with exhaust gas, and the diversity of symbiotic microorganisms in the human body is also reduced. Therefore, some researchers have expanded the concept of re-wildification to apply to the human body itself.
It is well known that urban residents have lower microbial diversity than rural residents. Studies have also shown that people living in the jungles of the Amazon have traditional hunting and gathering lifestyles that have very high microbial diversity.
In order to make the microbes that coexist with urban residents more “natural”, some researchers suggest that urban planners should design more green space in the city, such as community gardens and small public gardens, to reshape the microbial communities of urban residents. Of course, these green spaces are not designed casually. It is necessary to consider the interaction between it and human microbes, which trees and shrubs are planted to promote the growth of microorganisms. Although it has not yet been applied, it is indeed a new perspective of re-wildification.
No matter from which point of view, the return to nature’s wildness is a good thing for Mother Earth and ourselves.