Rebuilding, Rewilding...

Photo by Henryr10 |

An eye opening article about mass extinctions by a fellow Starfish writer, Mandy McDougall, got me thinking about the rapidly increasing rate of species extinctions.

Research has shown that the impact of climate change will cause one in ten species to be extinct by 2100 and that previous predictions on this dire situation were not exaggerated. Projected increasing temperatures can cause severe habitat loss for many species, causing them to face extinction. In addition, human activity perpetuates this danger with increasing rates of pollution and changes to the global surface.

A recently published paper caught my eye for this very reason. Scientists in the UK have provided evidence that the process of rewilding could be successful in restoring critically endangered species.

Rewilding is a conservation process in which natural habitats are restored and protected through the introduction of keystone species which are crucial for the foundation of any ecosystem.

The study examined a species of ebony trees that were critically endangered due to extensive logging on an island off Mauritius. In addition, native tortoise species that were responsible for dispersing seeds became extinct.

They introduced a new species of tortoises to the area and found that they dispersed vast amounts of seeds from ingested ebony fruits, restoring the germination of ebony seedlings. They also found that seeds that passed through the gut of the tortoises showed improved germination.

We know that the introduction of new species can sometimes lead to unfavourable and unpredictable outcomes as seen throughout history. However, I think it’s important to strongly consider the implications of avoiding action all together.

Being the first study to provide substantial evidence that rewilding works, a significant step has been taken toward a solution. The study is also supported with thorough research on the substitute species to ensure that if needed, the tortoise species could be removed.

I think it’s important for government agencies and research institutions to focus their efforts on finding such solutions and cautiously implementing them.

In addition to preventative measures, we need to find ways to reverse anthropogenic effects that lead to the endangerment of the earth’s flora and fauna.  

So how much do you know about endangered animals? Check out this quiz by National Geographic and see how you score!