Complex ecosystems are healthy ecosystems. As we lose species from plant and animal communities, we lose important processes and therefore resilience. These simplified ecosystems become less able to endure extreme events, such as droughts and flooding, less resilient to disease outbreaks and less tolerant to invasive species arrival.
Often, we work to reintroduce ‘keystone’ species, those which play an important role to a number of other organisms. Alternatively, we may reintroduce species to aid the recovery of their population in historic parts of their range. This makes the population, as a whole, more robust. In all instances, reintroductions promote restoration of function and health, from a single species level to an ecosystem level.
What are reintroductions?
Reintroduction is the ‘action of putting a species (animal or plant) back into a former habitat’. This species may have been lost recently, or have been absent from the landscape for decades. Major species reintroduction projects have been undertaken across the world, from wolves to crickets, eagles to spiders. Some of these have been achieved by translocation (the moving of organisms from a healthy, wild population), others have used captive-bred stock. The UK has not been a spectator in these conservation attempts. In recent decades we have seen the reintroduction of woodland mammals, birds of prey, mosses and butterflies and we, as The Wildlife Trusts, have been instrumental in many of these.