Does Biodiversity Need Conservation or Re-Wilding? Insights from the past
The aim of this project is to contribute to the debate on the relevance of Re-Wilding for biodiversity conservation. Focussed on Northern Europe, this project is looking into the impact of grazing by large herbivores over long-term vegetation processes. This putative impact represents a fundamental argument in favour of Re-Wilding because top consumers are extinct in many part of the world, but may be required for sustaining biodiverse ecosystems. This piece of research will focus on three Northern European sites: i) Oostvaardersplassen Nature Reserve, The Netherlands, a heavily-grazed grassland, ii) The New Forest, UK, with mosaic habitats, and iii) Białowieża Forest, Poland, an ancient closed-canopy woodland. The actual vegetation and the today’s production of fossil at these three contrasting sites will be compared to palaeoecological assemblages both newly analysed and from the literature. Pollen and phytolith will provide two complementary methods for reconstructing vegetation, while investigation of past grazing intensity will make use of coprophilous fungal spores. It is speculated that this thesis will provide a new insight into the interaction between grazing and long-term vegetation processes in Northern Europe. Thus it will make a critical contribution to the debate on re-wilding, thereby addressing the fundamental challenge of nature conservation in the human-dominated landscapes of Northern Europe.