By Magnus Sylvén and Mark Halle

A new paradigm is gaining increasing attention in the world of nature conservation – ‘rewilding.’ It addresses the urgent need to rebuild ecosystem functioning across our lands, freshwater ecosystems, and seas. Science has shown that less than 3% of the terrestrial part of our planet is still fully functional. Our oceans are not faring much better: 97% of the marine environment is exposed to “fishing of some kind” from humans.

The rewilding concept has grown out of the awareness that something new must be done to redirect the negative development of our natural world. The focus on threatened species and biodiversity hotspots alone will not turn the tide. A functional nature is simply the best guarantee for all living creatures on the planet – humans included – to thrive.

Rewilding is a direct response to meeting the global objective of creating “ecological integrity,” which is one of the founding principles of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit declaration on environment and development, to guide countries towards sustainable development. The concept of ecological integrity is also embedded in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the UNFCCC.

On 20 March – the solar equinox when day and night are of equal duration on the entire planet, the emerging rewilding community of individuals and organizations across all our continents come together to share experiences and communicate on World Rewilding Day. Established in 2021, this is the fourth annual celebration, and the 2024 theme is “hope into action,” to “celebrate the far-reaching and often unforeseen benefits that arise when we partner with nature!”

World Rewilding Day is coordinated by the Global Rewilding Alliance (GRA), a new federation whose purpose is to mobilize and share existing knowledge – from all parts of the planet – on how to rewild nature and gain more support for this new approach. Anchored in the ‘Global Charter for Rewilding the Earth: Advancing Nature-based Solutions to the Extinction and Climate Crises,’ with 12 guiding principles, the Global Rewilding Alliance was founded in 2020 by The Wild Foundation and Re:wild. The network of currently 170+ organizations works across Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, Latin America, North America, and globally to protect and rewild 2.2 million square kilometers of land, freshwater, and sea in 124 countries.

How rewilding brings value to the global ecosystem services is a main topic of the GRA. In our very short history of work, we have focused on the interface between rewilding and climate change mitigation to create awareness of how wildlife species facilitate the capture of billions of tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually through a mechanism called ‘Animating the Carbon Cycle.’ Although the contribution of wildlife is of the same order of magnitude as the 2030 top actions identified by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), their contribution to finding efficient nature-based climate solutions has not yet fully been embraced by the international climate community.

Other topics in the pipeline include rewilding and water management, how rewilding could reduce the impacts of invasive alien species (IAS) and wildfires, how the build-up and protection of global fish stocks could help the climate, and the role of rewilding in adapting to inevitable climate change.

The small GRA Secretariat is legally established under Swiss Law and our home address is with IISD-Europe in Geneva. The GRA is partner to the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration and contributes with the wildlife and climate work to its 2030 action plan.

* * *

Magnus Sylvén is Director of Science-Policy-Practice at the Global Rewilding Alliance.

Mark Halle is Chair of the Board of the Global Rewilding Alliance.