Oxford Long-Term Ecology Lab

Long-Term Ecology, Biodiversity Conservation, and Environmental Stewardship Technologies


Rewilding with large herbivores is a conservation strategy being deployed in multiple countries across the world. Putting drivers in place such as large herbivores and then allowing natural regeneration to happen have been proven to increase biodiversity. Whether rewilding projects improve the provision of goods and services remains uncertain because there is a lack of empirical information, particularly in temperate zone Europe. Without quantifying the services or disservices provided by rewilding, it is difficult to estimate the benefits of this conservation strategy. By strengthening our understanding of ecosystem service provisions related to rewilding we will also build upon our awareness of the contextual factors that are affecting rewilding. Quantifying ecosystem service provisions before rewilding took place and changes over time will allow an estimation of the benefits of large herbivore reintroduction and natural regeneration for human well-being.

This project is using the Knepp Estate as a model rewilding programme to determine the past and present natural capital assets (carbon storage, soil erosion, pollination, water retention, recreation) and understand how the quantity of these assets has varied through time and space, and identify the relative contribution of rewilding to these changes. I will lead a team of researchers to extract destructive samples of above and below ground biomass of scrubland and hedgerows to investigate carbon storage and sequestration potential of rewilding. Using a Structure for Motion (SFM) approach alongside the destructive sampling I will generate allometric equations based on the relationship of key characteristics of different species of scrub and their total amount of carbon.

The different response of vegetation to ‘rewilding’ in the Southern Block of the Knepp Estate. (A) a ‘Vera oak’ protected by bramble in an open landscape; (B) Savanna type thorn-scrub in an open landscape; (C) topiary affect on the hawthorn; (D) heavily browsed blackthorn surrounded by thick scrub.