Global Communities and society

Rewilding: Case studies and resources for local government


Every week, we highlight inspiration and innovation from local government worldwide. In this article, we focus on we can rewild our local areas – from cities to wilderness. You’ll find best practice from Spain, Singapore, Australia and the UK along with plenty of practical policy and resources to for more insight and guidance on the topic.

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Policy innovation and inspiration examples from the local government sector

Spain: Rewilding “empty Spain” in the Iberian highlands
The endangered Przewalski’s horse is considered the world’s last wild horse, having been sadly driven to extinction in the wild. Now, Rewilding Spain has reintroduced 10 of the horses to the Iberian highlands from a reserve in France. After acclimatising in a 17-hectare enclosure, the horses have been released into a 210,040-acre landscape of forests, steppes and farmland. The plan forms part of Rewilding Spain’s 20-year initiative to transform one of the least populated regions in Europe into a bustling wilderness. The chosen area is colloquially known as “empty Spain”, with fewer than two people per square kilometre residing there following decades of land abandonment and depopulation. With these low levels of human disturbance, the region has slowly begun teeming with life again, and Rewilding Spain has focused on reintroducing and encouraging the return of herbivores and predators, such as the Iberian Lynx. At the same time, the initiative focuses work for local people. Expanded natural diversity is hoped to create the backbone of a regenerated rural economy, centred on responsible nature tourism, local produce, and educational programmes.
The Guardian

Singapore: From a “Garden city” to a “City in a garden”
Singapore has set out to restore its lost native vegetation and improve local quality of life by embracing rewilding. The Gardens by the Bay are home to 18 “super trees”, artificial trees that reach as high as 160 feet and contain over 158,000 plants, offering the benefits of a natural canopy like shade, rainwater filtration, and heat absorbtion. A similar rewilding approach has been applied at its Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park. Built on previously industrial land, the park incorporates elements of water-sensitive urban design to reduce the urban heat island effect. Two years after these rewilding efforts were implemented in the park, biodiversity has risen by some 30%, despite no new wildlife being introduced. Elsewhere, the city maintains more than 90 miles of Nature Ways, canopied corridors to connect green spaces and encourage fauna movement, and a City Biodiversity Index to track environmental and conservation projects.

UK: Bison reintroduced in Kent for first time in 6,000 years
Wilder Blean is a rewilding project in Canterbury, UK, which has seen the reintroduction of bison as free roaming animals for the first time in 6,000 years. The project was sparked by local concern over a lack of national woodland management, reportedly one of the eight biggest drivers of species decline in the UK. Now, Kent Wildlife Trust and Wildwood Trust have partnered to demonstrate how European bison can act as a sustainable solution to woodland management. These bison are hoped to act as eco-engineers – boosting diversity through trampling, eating bark, grazing, dispering seeds and dust bathing. The scheme aims to restore the natural biodiversity of a landscape while requiring less hands-on management.
Kent Wildlife Trust

Australia: Returning the Tasmanian devil to fight forest fires
Australia is home to the world’s highest mammal extinction rate. Over the years, its fauna have been devastated by invasive overseas predators, while  recently, damage from bushfires have killed close to three billion animals. Now, in a bid to help wildlife recover, conservationists have looked to reintroduce the Tasmanian devil. The species is adept at driving out invasive foxes and cats while keeping wallaby and possum populations in check – in turn allowing small mammals to recover. At the same time, the return of the Tasmanian devil helps to spread seeds, enrich the soil, bury leaf litter and reduce the build up of flammable material, helping to curb forest fire. Twenty-six Tasmanian devils have recently been reintroduced to Australia’s mainland, for the first first time in 3,000 years, by Aussie Ark.


Resources to help build stronger communities

Old file folders books


Project: restoration in the Cairngorms

As part of a wider restoration project across the Cairngorms mountain range of Scotland, researchers have set out to highlight a broader range of narratives behind biodiversity, rewilding and restoration. This blog sets out how certain habitats and environmental practices can become marginalised in the restoration process. It also sets out an online platform for stories connected to the Cairngorms.

Research: Every Tree Tells a Story

This research project explores the importance of Glasgow’s treescape to its residents. Based on a collaboration between council professionals, academics, and practitioners, Glaswegians were asked to share their stories of local trees and how they matter to them. They found that trees are valued for their role as habitats for local fauna, their role in producing oxygen, their impact on local amenity, and their special role as a focal point for families, communities, relationships and visitors across generations.

Report: Bringing nature back into cities

This report emphasises the importance of the bringing nature back into cities (BNB) approach as a key aspect of urban sustainability. BNB advocates for recognising local and Indigenous knowledge, inclusive decision-making, advances in ecology, effective communication, and the value of urban infrastructure.

Article: Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing

This study outlines one of the most immediately beneficial elements of rewilding our local places. It finds that spending more than two hours a week in green spaces is beneficial for our health and sense of wellbeing.

Report: Sponge cities: can they help us survive more intense rainfall?

Is there a way to improve ‘grey infrastructure’ (pipes and drains) while greening our local areas? This report considers ‘sponge cities’ as a potential solution. With the loss of green spaces in New Zealand, urban areas have become less able to absorb rainfall. With sponge cities, planners would build or restore urban wetlands, create space for urban waterways to flood safely, and ‘daylight’ streams. This in turn helps to spread the water load faced by cities.

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