Ecosystem service responses to rewilding

11th September 2018



Rewilding as a conservation strategy is gaining increasing scientific, political and public attention, yet empirical evaluations of its impacts remain scarce, especially with regards to ecosystem services. We provide evidence of the change in three ecosystem services (timber [provisioning], pollination [regulating], and aesthetics [cultural]) from up to 27 years of a moorland rewilding strategy in the Scottish Highlands using a chronosequence of rewilded plots and adjacent controls. These services were assessed in the field and using online surveys. We found that rewilding increased aboveground woody biomass and restored natural tree recruitment processes, although the latter only emerged after at least 15 years of rewilding. Rewilding caused a linear increase in perceived aesthetic quality over the first 27 years, but had no effect on pollination visitation rates. Thus, we conclude that rewilding can be used for ecosystem service recovery in moorland landscapes, but that results vary depending on the preferred service.