Rewilding European Landscapes

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We used the OS scenario for the baseline projections of The bar graph shows the percentage of past and the projected future conversion from agriculture to natural areas in each world region based on the OS scenario. In mountain areas and other marginal lands in Europe, cultivation has provided subsistence to local communities for many years. Upon globalization of agricultural markets and increased labor costs, agriculture in many of these areas is no longer profitable and abandonment occurs Rey Benayas et al.

However, extensive agriculture has supported high biodiversity of several taxa Fischer et al. Although there are both species that benefit and species that are negatively affected by farmland abandonment Sirami et al. Much of current European policy and legislation on biodiversity focuses on the protection of habitats and species characteristic of extensive farmland, including through mowing, subsidized grazing, and sowing of grasslands EC , Moreover, agri-environmental schemes included in the Common Agricultural Policy of the European Union provide subsidies for the maintenance of traditional agricultural practices EEA Rewilding has been proposed as an alternative approach to manage farmland abandonment in Europe.

There are several approaches to rewilding, from the restoration of Pleistocene ecosystems Donlan et al. We developed a framework to explore the opportunities and challenges for ecological rewilding in Europe. We mapped wilderness quality in areas projected to be abandoned by We define wilderness as area of minimum human influence Carver et al. These metrics indicate important human modifications that affect multiple taxa and ecosystem structure Forman ; Haberl et al. Our hypothesis is that different wilderness metrics lead to the identification of different opportunities and management options for rewilding.

We also investigated how current protected area systems support rewilding in and near areas of projected abandonment. We hypothesize that many areas undergoing abandonment are located around Natura sites, which are often managed for the maintenance of farmland habitats, which poses challenges for rewilding. We considered abandonment only if it was predicted in at least 3 of the scenarios.

We mapped 4 metrics of wilderness in Europe at a 4 km 2 resolution. We calculated the pHPP based on the potential net primary productivity and net harvested primary productivity data sets of Haberl et al. Net harvested primary productivity is the ecosystem productivity appropriated by humans through agriculture or forestry. The light impact score per pixel was the sum of impact scores from the surrounding light sources over a radius of approximately 10 km.

Rewilding European Landscapes

These wilderness metrics partially overlapped with parameters used in the Dyna-CLUE model as determinants of land use allocation; therefore, our results should be interpreted carefully. We extracted the values of the metrics at the location of projected abandonment from the values calculated at continental level with a bivariate normal kernel function with a radius of approximately 10 km.

We split the raster values for all wilderness metrics across the EU27 into quantiles to calculate the amount of farmland abandonment at different ranges of wilderness. The division into quantiles of the night light data was less precise due to many ties in the values. Therefore, we used the We mapped the overlap between dPNV and pHPP by calculating the difference between the normalized values of the 2 metrics. We calculated the projected abandonment around protected areas by measuring Euclidian distance to the borders of protected areas of IUCN category I and II and to Natura sites.

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A detailed description of the data sets and methods is in Supporting Information. These wilderness metrics outline human impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem function. The effects of artificial light are documented for invertebrates Davies et al. Furthermore, artificial light produces a night glow effect at distances of several kilometers from the light sources Kyba et al.

Pedro Prata (Western Iberia project) - Endangered Landscapes Programme launch

Roads and traffic can also cause pollution Pagotto et al. The other two metrics, pHPP and dPNV, are indicative of the current ecological and vegetation structures and the amount of primary productivity available within trophic networks. Vegetation type is fundamental in the structuring of ecosystems Bridgeland et al. Farmland areas projected to be abandoned in at least 3 scenarios covered 4. The maps of wilderness metrics offered snapshots of the current human impact in areas to become abandoned Fig. In contrast, 8. Accessibility and pHPP had intermediate values: Areas of predicted abandonment in central Europe had higher accessibility due to higher infrastructure development than in other parts of Europe Fig.

Elsewhere on the continent, areas projected to be abandoned are relatively remote rural regions with a long history of landscape modification and low productivity and are often located in mountains, where limits to mechanization make it difficult to compensate for low productivity MacDonald et al.


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Wilderness value for areas of farmland abandonment based on a artificial night light, b human accessibility score, c proportion of harvested primary productivity, and d deviation from potential natural vegetation within a radius of 10 km. High scores of these metrics correspond to low wilderness. The initial resolution of the data sets was 1 km 2 , but pixel size is 3 times larger to increase visibility of the considered areas.

Identifying areas of agreement and disagreement between pHPP and dPNV at continental and regional scales provides further information on the diversity of local contexts for rewilding Fig. Areas such as the Iberian Peninsula and large areas of Eastern Europe showed strongly modified vegetation but a lower pHPP than the intensive agricultural regions in Western Europe Figs. The initial resolution of the data sets was 1 km 2 , but pixel size is 3 times larger to increase the visibility of areas considered in b and c. In Europe, nationally designated protected areas are based on classifications that often can be mapped to the International Union for Conservation of Nature IUCN categories.

Protected areas of category I strict nature reserves and wilderness areas and II national parks directly address the maintenance and support of natural ecological processes and minimum human intervention Dudley and therefore would be the most favorable to rewilding. However, protected areas of category I and II occupy only 2. National systems of protected areas coexist with Natura , the European Union system of protected areas.

Many of the species and habitats under the Natura management guidelines are characteristic of extensive farmland and early successional habitats Halada et al. Therefore, to potentiate rewilding in those regions, Natura management guidelines have to be expanded to include rewilding actions. The speed at which different dimensions of wilderness will respond to farmland abandonment varies. The pHPP will respond almost immediately Fig. However, several obstacles make it difficult not only to predict the amount of time taken by ecosystems to reach a new equilibrium but also to predict how close the novel ecosystems will be to the PNV Vera ; Rey Benayas et al.

Climate change may lead to modified patterns of PNV Hickler et al. Additionally, levels of natural herbivory and other disturbances to natural succession e. Thus, management actions to increase populations of wild herbivores through no-hunting zones or reintroductions could promote the restoration of natural vegetation. Moreover, the recovery of forest vegetation is often hindered by the isolation of current seed banks Rey Benayas et al.

Conceptual illustration of the variation over time in wilderness value after abandonment based on 4 metrics gray vertical line, beginning of farmland abandonment. High values of each metric correspond to low wilderness. Other dimensions of wilderness may also have a delayed response to abandonment. Artificial light may decrease soon after abandonment, but due to the presence of public light infrastructure and the development of new activities in the landscape, such as tourism Cerqueira et al.

Policies can promote the progressive decrease of public lighting and foster tourism infrastructure that uses low light pollution architecture Salmon Accessibility may be the slowest to respond to abandonment because roads will persist for a long time. Still, a decrease in traffic could lead to a decrease in the effects of road mortality on animal populations Forman and a decrease in other negative effects such as noise and pollution Summers et al. Policies could promote decreased accessibility by promoting road removal or implementing traffic limitations Switalski et al.

Rewilding will often result in the increase of forest cover, leading to many specialist species of open areas becoming less abundant and more spatially restricted. Common farmland birds and grassland butterflies are already becoming less abundant Tryjanowski et al. This megafauna increase is also an outcome of decades of conservation policies e. Moreover, rewilding will increase connectivity of natural habitats, supporting the adjustment of ranges to climate change Lindner et al.

How biodiversity dynamics will continue to evolve after abandonment and what rewilding strategies should be implemented are active areas of research. Timmermann et al. Some scientists argue that pre-farming levels of herbivory were sufficiently high to maintain a mosaic of woods and grasslands Vera ; Sandom et al. Thus, several approaches to rewilding in Europe are based on filling the ecological role of extinct wild herbivores Vera ; Monbiot However, several recent studies suggest that Europe was mostly covered by closed canopy forests until humans created open landscapes Birks ; Mitchell We hypothesize that in former and novel landscapes, fire, storms, and diseases could generate a fluid mosaic of early successional habitats in a predominantly closed forest Navarro et al.

An open question is whether large herbivores can delay succession by selectively grazing open areas, particularly in the presence of predators. In any case, one would not expect a lack of open habitats in a post-abandonment Europe, including remaining agricultural areas and areas where abiotic factors limit tree recruitment, such as high elevation areas and wetlands.

Reponses to farmland abandonment differ across the world. In several regions, such as Australia, there are few agricultural subsidies Productivity Commission , and abandonment has been taken up as an opportunity for restoration of native vegetation Cramer et al.

What is rewilding?

In other countries, agricultural subsidies have been implemented to halt abandonment. In the 19th century, the response to abandonment in the northeastern United States was the acquisition of land by government to encourage reforestation and restoration McGrory Klyza During the economic depression of the s, agricultural subsidies were designed as a support for farmers. In the past, the emphasis of these measures was to provide incentives for setting aside areas for wildlife habitat Haufler et al. But funding has now shifted toward mitigating the impacts of agricultural intensification and the funding for wildlife habitat has decreased Mayrand et al.

Many previously set aside areas have now been brought back into production, especially for biofuels Avery Wilderness mapping can support the development of rewilding strategies in these different agricultural contexts. Our analyses confirmed our hypotheses that different wilderness metrics reveal different priorities and that abandonment areas in Europe are close to Natura sites. Rewilding actions can be prioritized toward improving the wilderness metrics lacking in a certain region e.

The management of protected areas can also be used to facilitate rewilding in areas of high abandonment. Conservation management in the face of anthropogenic change represents an issue of global importance. A rewilding approach recognizes that the majority of ecosystems have been modified by humans, but identifies opportunities for decreasing the human pressure on ecosystems and restoring the more natural biodiversity dynamics and ecosystem services associated with wilderness Naidoo et al. Sturck, and N.

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Schulp in preparing the land use simulations. We thank G. Pe'er and R. Seppelt for useful comments and suggestions on earlier versions of this work. We thank 2 anonymous reviewers for useful comments that have greatly improved the current work. A detailed description of the data sets and methods Appendix S1 are available on-line. The authors are solely responsible for the content and functionality of these materials. Queries other than absence of the material should be directed to the corresponding author. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Conservation Biology. Conserv Biol.

Published online May Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer. Received Oct 15; Accepted Feb Conservation Biology published by wiley Periodicals, Inc. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Associated Data Supplementary Materials A detailed description of the data sets and methods Appendix S1 are available on-line. Abstract Farmland abandonment takes place across the world due to socio-economic and ecological drivers. Introduction Since the development of agriculture, large areas have been converted into farmland across the world Ramankutty et al. Open in a separate window. Figure 1. Wilderness metrics in abandonment areas Farmland areas projected to be abandoned in at least 3 scenarios covered 4.

Rewilding – Rewilding Europe

Figure 2. Figure 3. Policies and Management for Rewilding The speed at which different dimensions of wilderness will respond to farmland abandonment varies. Figure 4. Biodiversity Dynamics of Rewilding Rewilding will often result in the increase of forest cover, leading to many specialist species of open areas becoming less abundant and more spatially restricted.

Return of the European bison

A Global Perspective on Abandonment and Rewilding Reponses to farmland abandonment differ across the world. Acknowledgments P. Supporting Information A detailed description of the data sets and methods Appendix S1 are available on-line. Click here to view. Changes in ecosystem services and their drivers across scenarios. Ecosystems and human well-being: scenarios. Washington, D. C: Island Press; Movements and habitat use of feral house cats Felis catus , stoats Mustela erminea and ferrets Mustela furo , in grassland surrounding yellow-eyed penguin Megadyptes antipodes breeding areas in spring.

Biological Conservation. Biofuels, food, or wildlife? The massive land costs of US ethanol. C: Competitive Enterprise Institute; Green payments and the US Farm Bill: information and policy challenges. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. Potential effects of artificial light associated with anthropogenic infrastructure on the abundance and foraging behaviour of estuary-associated fishes. Journal of Applied Ecology. Mind the gap: How open were European primeval forests? Map of the Natural vegetation of Europe. The first part presents the theory of rewilding in the European context.

The second part of the book directly addresses the link between rewilding, biodiversity, and habitats. The third and last part is dedicated to practical aspects of the implementation of rewilding as a land management option. We believe that this book will both set the basis for future research on rewilding and help practitioners think about how rewilding can take place in areas under their management. Convert currency. Add to Basket. Book Description Condition: New.

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