the European bison (Bison bonasus) has made a comeback in Central and Eastern Europe. Hunters had killed the last known bison in the region nearly a century ago. But thanks to reintroduction programs in Belarus, Poland, Russia and Romania, nearly four times as many bison are alive today as there were in 2003. The increase, to some 7,000 animals, was enough to prompt the IUCN to downgrade the European bison’s conservation status from vulnerable to near threatened in 2020.

The largest of Romania’s free-roaming herds lives in the Țarcu Mountains, a low-slung range in the Southern Carpathians heavy with old-growth forest. The reintroduction of the bison, including the recent addition of two males and six females in 2020, is a collaboration of WWF Romania and the Netherlands-based nonprofit Rewilding Europe. It’s also one of dozens of rewilding projects featured on a new map from the Global Rewilding Alliance that was officially launched April 11.

“I wasn’t aware that you have [wild bison] going through Romania,” said Alexander Watson, CEO of OpenForests, the social enterprise company based in Germany hosting the rewilding project map.

European bison in Monts d’Azur Biological Reserve, France. In the past decade, the European bison (Bison bonasus) has made a comeback in Central and Eastern Europe. Image by Valène Aure via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0).
Watson said the details of these types of projects are now available to the public and to other organizations through the map, providing not only ideas but proof of what’s possible with projects that restore the functions of natural areas. Member organizations of the Global Rewilding Alliance can post photos, videos and stories about their projects on the map. To join, groups must agree to the Alliance’s charter, which defines rewilding as “helping nature heal.”

To date, the map includes rewilding projects has made in more than 70 countries covering 1 million square kilometers (386,000 square miles). The hope, according to the Global Rewilding Alliance’s leaders, is to add more over the next 10 years. The timeline coincides with the U.N. Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, which aims to halt and reverse degradation of land and sea environments through 2030.

“A map is an ideal canvas to combine storytelling on a map with data,” Watson said. “It creates the inspiration, but also gives the confidence that something’s really happening there.”

The platform provides transparency that could inform the marketing of carbon credits, for example, OpenForests said. They also note that the platform on which the map is built includes soil carbon and tree cover layers, adding further information about the impacts of these projects. A layer will also include Mongabay’s geolocated rewilding stories.

Vance Martin, president of the U.S.-based WILD Foundation, said the scale of rewilding projects ranges from “cocoon” conservancies in India that began with the rewilding of a 42-hectare (105-acre plot of farmland) aimed at connecting tiger habitat, to an effort to set aside a mammoth, 520,000-km2 (200,000-mi2) no-take section of the Pacific Ocean.

The map brings website visitors face-to-face with the stories of how these types of restoration are playing out and why they’re important, “making them more tangible” to people who may live far from these spots on the planet, Watson said.

“I think people only protect what they can see and what they know,” he added.

It’s also a way to bring the concept of rewilding, of allowing nature to retake control, to a wider audience. The term dates back to the late 1990s, when a pair of scientists, Michael Soulé and Reed Noss, introduced rewilding as a concept that centered on the restoration of wilderness and the return of large animals, especially carnivores, to the landscape.

The concept has expanded in the past two and a half decades, but it rests on allowing nature to take the lead — and to bring back natural processes rather than a fixed state to an ecosystem.

An ecosystem is “not something static,” Andrea Perino, an ecologist and science policy coordinator at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research, told Mongabay. “It’s a dynamic thing.”

Source : This news is originally published by.mongabay

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