Session 3.2 about monitoring change during rewilding was accepted at INTECOL2022 in Geneva, Switzerland, August 28 – September 2 2022, on the basis of this abstract:
“One defining characteristic of rewilding is the establishment of natural processes to create self-sustaining ecosystems where conservation management is minimised. Some critical natural processes only occur when driven by ecosystem engineers, such as beavers creating wetlands, tapir dispersing tree seeds or giant tortoise grazing vegetation. Because many landscapes have experienced widespread ecosystem-engineer extinction, rewilding is typically accelerated when re-introducing large herbivores and carnivores. Monitoring change during rewilding is an opportunity to quantify societal benefits such as fighting climate change and biodiversity loss, but also requires overcoming barriers. For example, rewilding can occur in a variety of situations, at a range of temporal and spatial scales, and sometimes without a specific target. As a result, a wide range of benefits to society can be considered and many will not be relevant in all situations. Therefore, we pose the question: what and how to monitor during rewilding?
Rewilding progress can be measured within a given area using quantified proxies for decreasing human inputs and for increasing environmental integrity. A standardised and detailed framework will empower practitioners and build the evidence-base for future initiatives. A key abiotic change attracting focus is carbon sequestration along with the wider contribution to climate change mitigation. However, there remain knowledge gaps about the magnitude and directionality of change during rewilding. Promisingly, when accounting for the complex interaction between megafauna and permafrost, there may be a financial case via carbon markets to rewild vast areas of the arctic. Moreover, the need to assess the benefits following re-introduction of beavers as ecosystem engineers in Britain has led to the collection of abundant evidence based on multiple abiotic parameters such as hydrology, and aquatic biodiversity. Biodiversity and food web changes controlling top-down and bottom-up ecosystem processes can be difficult to document without resource-intensive biological surveys covering a wide range of organisms. eDNA and metabarcoding of megafaunal faecal samples are examples of existing tools useful in this context to synthesise biotic changes in time. In addition to abiotic and biotic aspects, practitioner’s perspectives can provide important insights and assess the human dimensions beyond ecological metrics.
A challenging undertaking such as monitoring change during rewilding ultimately also forces the ecological community to break new ground and push our field’s frontiers. This will be illustrated with a model of social-ecological monitoring designed for the diverse world of rewilding.”