Rewilding Europe: reconstructing ecosystems by looking mostly forward

Elizabeth Kolbert, writing for The New Yorker:

The newest land in Europe could be used to create a Paleolithic landscape. The biologists set about stocking the Oostvaardersplassen with the sorts of animals that would have inhabited the region in prehistoric times—had it not at that point been underwater. In many cases, the animals had been exterminated, so they had to settle for the next best thing. For example, in place of the aurochs, a large and now extinct bovine, they brought in Heck cattle...

Perhaps it’s true that genuine wildernesses can only be destroyed, but new “wilderness,” what the Dutch call “new nature,” can be created. Every year, tens of thousands of acres of economically marginal farmland in Europe are taken out of production. Why not use this land to produce “new nature” to replace what’s been lost? The same basic idea could, of course, be applied outside of Europe—it’s been proposed, for example, that depopulated expanses of the American Midwest are also candidates for rewinding....

As more aurochs remains have been unearthed and more sophisticated research has been done on them, it’s become clear that the Heck brothers’ creation is a far cry from the original—Heck cattle are too small, their horns have the wrong shape, and the proportions of their bodies are off. All of which has led to a new, de-Nazified effort to back-breed the aurochs. This project is based in the Dutch city of Nijmegen, about fifty miles southeast of Amsterdam, and is entirely independent of the Oostvaardersplassen. Still, it reflects much the same can-do, “what is lost is not lost forever” approach to conservation.

We should increase the biodiversity of our domesticated places and conserve species diversity in our wild places. With regard to 'New Nature', we can admire the beauty of organisms regardless how they arrived in the dynamic, very changing world we also live in.

May you be with Nature. May Nature be with you.