Trophic rewilding is the reintroduction of species that have become extinct in specific areas, and it may be one way to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Ecologist Dr. Liesbeth Bakker of the Nederlands Instituut voor Ecologie has stated that loss of species drastically impacts environments in which they live. “If we are to restore nature, the role of these animals in the food web is crucial. One approach to obtaining a healthy food web again is by reintroducing missing species.”

One of the clearest examples of the benefit of trophic rewilding took place in the 1990s, when wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park. Putting them back into the environment had such impact that it reduced the erosion of river banks by decreasing the population of deer and elk. When wolves were killed off in the 1930s, populations of deer and elk grew to the limits of Yellowstone’s capacity. Herds did not move around the park as much because they were not being chased by wolves; they tended to stay somewhat stationary, eating down young, healthy aspen and willow trees, as well as cottonwood plants. This had a negative effect on the beaver population, as beavers need willows to survive winter.

When wolves were released into the park, elk and deer populations were naturally made to move more. This allowed trees to flourish, which invigorated the beaver population. The naturally occurring reintroduction of beaver has actually helped make groves of aspen and willow become healthier, which has increased songbird populations, as well as recharging the water table, which has helped increase the fish population.

Dr. Bakker and Danish researcher Jens-Christian Svenning have published data from researchers all over the world, supporting Dr. Bakker’s findings. The article is published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, a biweekly, peer-reviewed scientific journal published by the Royal Society. The article provides data that highlights the need for biodiversity around the world.


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