Reintroducing rewilding to restoration – a search for novelty

Matt Hayward, Robert J. Scanlon, Alexandra Callen, Lachlan G. Howell, Kaya L. Klop-Toker, Yamil Di Blanco, Niko Balkenhol, Cassandra K. Bugir, Lachlan Campbell, Anthony Caravaggi, Anita C. Chalmers, John Clulow, Simon Clulow, Paul Cross, John A. Gould, Andrea S. Griffin, Marco Heurich, Belinda K. Howe, David S. Jachowski, Yadvendradev V. JhalaRamesh Krishnamurthy, Rafał Kowlczyk, Dean J. Lenga, John D. C. Linnell, Kelly A. Marnewick, Axel Moehrensclager, Robert A. Montgomery, Liudmila Osipova, Chloe Peneaux, John C. Rodger, Lilian P. Sales, Rebecca G. Y. Seeto, Craig M. Shuttleworth, Michael J. Somers, Cottrell T. Tamessar, Rose M. O. Upton, Florian J. Weise

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Rewilding is emerging as a major issue in conservation. However, there are currently a dozen definitions of rewilding that include Pleistocene rewilding, island rewilding, trophic rewilding, functional rewilding and passive rewilding, and these remain fuzzy, lack clarity and, hence, hinder scientific discourse. Based on current definitions, it is unclear how the interventions described under the rewilding umbrella differ from those framed within the long-standing term ‘restoration’. Even projects held up as iconic rewilding endeavours invariably began as restoration projects (e.g., Oostvaaderplassen; Pleistocene Park; the return of wolves to Yellowstone, etc.). Similarly, rewilding organisations (e.g., Rewilding Europe) typically began with a restoration focus. Scientific discourse requires precise language. The fuzziness of existing definitions of rewilding and lack of distinction from restoration practices means that scientific messages cannot be transferred accurately to a policy or practice framework. We suggest that the utility of ‘rewilding’ as a term is obsolete, and hence recommend scientists and practitioners use ‘restoration’ instead.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)255-259
JournalBiological Conservation
Issue numberMay 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019


  • Rewilding
  • Pleistocene
  • Island
  • Restoration
  • Restore
  • Ecological equivalent species
  • Reinforcement
  • Reintroduction
  • Novel ecosystems
  • Conservation translocation
  • Ecological replacement
  • Assisted colonisation


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