Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

16.17 22 Feb 2021


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Rewilding 'makes sense' as a way to address Ireland's biodiversity and climate emergency, one wildlife expert says.

Rewilding refers to the process of returning human-altered land to a more natural state.

That can involve everything from reintroducing lost native species such as wolves, to letting nature reclaim forest land that has been lost to deforestation.

Padraic Fogarty - Campaign Officer for the Irish Wildlife Trust and host of the Shaping New Mountains podcast - told Moncrieff about why it's so important for our country's biodiversity.

Why rewilding Ireland is about much more than just 'plonking wolves into the countryside'

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He explained: “The first step that has to be taken is we have to get our heads around the biodiversity and climate emergency.

“A lot of people appreciate we’re living in a period of climate breakdown, but a lot of people still don’t really realise how much nature has disappeared from Ireland.

“Over 100 species have already gone extinct from Ireland. Getting your head around that bit is the first part of it. Then you’ll see rewilding makes sense.”

He said it's not just about 'plonking wolves into the countryside' or planting trees, but instead coming up with a plan to allow natural processes take their course.

He observed: “What we’re trying to achieve through rewilding is helping nature to help itself… getting into the position where nature would be more or less self-regulating in the countryside.

“Planting trees is far down the list of what we want to do… trees are well able to plant themselves. Particularly with bogs, we don’t really want trees on bogs if they’re wet and soaking up carbon."

Padraic said some of this work is already underway, with Bord na Móna set to rewild large amounts of land after they stopped harvesting peat.

While the aim is to allow nature 'self-regulate', there is a need for human intervention to control invasive species that are already present here.

Padraic explained: “Sometimes people think rewilding is just about walking away and letting nature do its thing. But if we were do that in Ireland we’d see rhododendron take over big time. We don’t want that to happen - we need to control those species.

“One thing we’d like to see is rewilding of our rivers… our rivers have been mostly dammed and dug into straight channels. Allowing rivers to reflood and bend across the land would be a very good time.

“That may require unbuilding as they’re calling it in America - removing buildings, carparks and stuff to allow for natural floodplains."

He suggested the process would need to come alongside a "social revolution" in rural Ireland, including reintroducing wilderness to existing farmland.

Main image: File photo. Picture by: Peter Zoeller/Zuma Press/PA Images

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