According to a report by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), poorer communities could be driven out of their areas by re-rescuing due to “green gentrification”.
The report finds that rewilding could lead to higher housing prices as areas become more desirable and their risk of being affected by natural disasters such as flooding decreases. New tourism opportunities may also result from improved green spaces and wildlife.
Without careful implementation, the report’s authors note, “green gentrification” could take place, with local communities excluded from their areas. The report recommends that sociologists and other experts, as well as local communities, be consulted and work with any urban nature restoration project.
The report’s author, Nathalie Pettorelli, of the ZSL Institute of Zoology, told the Guardian: “[The rewilded area] could be created in disadvantaged areas and you could cause green gentrification. It’s greener, and because it’s greener and nicer, house prices go up.
“It’s not just an ecological problem, it’s a socio-ecological problem; you have to consider people all the time and figure out if you’re going to create inequities.
This is not just an issue of restoring nature, she said, but of any improvements to urban areas, with the necessary safeguards to ensure local communities can stay and enjoy new or improved green spaces. , and have a say in what is created.
“A lot of people who work on rewilding are environmentalists at heart — they sometimes forget the social aspect,” Pettorelli said. “It has to be a common sociological cause – if you don’t take people into account, it won’t work in the long run.”
If these tensions are resolved, rewilding could be positive for underserved communities, which are typically most at risk from the negative effects of the climate crisis, including air pollution, heat waves and flooding.
Pettorelli said: “That could actually be a good thing because if people learn to co-exist with nature it can… actually reduce inequality by having all these mental and physical benefits, reducing air pollution , which often affects people in deprived areas more for example, and giving people a green space to enjoy.
Rewilding has long been associated with the reintroduction of large carnivores into vast, untouched landscapes, but the study indicates that city ecosystems could also be made wilder, mitigating the damage caused by the climate crisis.
Although green spaces in urban areas can be relatively small, when taken together – and connected – these patchworks cover a lot of ground and could therefore be vital for storing carbon and reversing biodiversity loss, according to the report. By creating wetlands around towns and cities, the effects of floods could be significantly reduced, and by adding greenery to buildings, as well as creating green spaces, urban areas could be made cooler during waves. heat.
The report noted other challenges presented by the rewilding of urban areas, including the colonization in the UK of invasive alien species such as Japanese knotweed, which could benefit from low-intensity intervention methods to take root and spread. The report also raised concerns that the public is being encouraged to release species in inappropriate areas, so education around such projects is needed.
The report looked at good examples of urban rewilding around the world, including Singapore, which transformed its Kallang River from a straight concrete channel into an undulating nature haven with lush banks. The river was reconnected to the floodplain and better public access was created. This reduces the risk of flooding, increases biodiversity and provides a beautiful place to walk.
The report also highlighted Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord in Germany, located on a former steelworks, which has become a popular hiking spot since it was left for nature to recolonize.
Ecosystem engineers: Animals that could be restored to UK cities
Pettorelli gave the Guardian examples of animals that could be reintroduced to British cities.
This wetland-creating rodent could thrive on the outskirts of cities. It’s already being reintroduced – in venues – outside of London.
“This is a very endangered species, which uses major rivers in the UK, and you could improve the migration passes for this species,” Pettorelli said.
Already reintroduced to Kent, southern towns with good open marshes could enjoy a revival of this striking bird.
“Otters are doing very well in British towns,” Pettorelli said. “They’re spotted in Edinburgh, Manchester, Birmingham and Bath – there’s potential for them elsewhere.”
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