Habitat Restoration: An Easier Way?
In order to have a sustainable ecology we need to restore the habitats lost to excessive development and excessive exploitation of the natural world. The natural world is sustained and actively maintained by different animals species going about their normal instinctive activities. which help to sustain and maintain the local ecology. By these normal activities such as foraging, burrowing, nesting, feeding, and so on, the animal species help to spread and ‘plant’ the seeds local to that area. Since the indigenous animals often consume the plants which they help to spread, or those plants are consumed by other animals, this help to create a sustain a balanced ecology.
Few would argue against the notion that habitat restoration offers value not only to the animal species, but ultimately to the human species as it strengthens the local ecology and makes it more resilient. A healthy local ecology becomes more able to handle changing weather patterns, and to recover more quickly from floods and other weather extremes.
The challenge is how to restore the natural habitat. As the habitat was removed so were the animals which maintained it. The loss of these “maintainers” makes it very difficult for the habitat to recover without human intervention. It was human intervention which caused the problem so it often takes human intervention to resolve it.
What is required is for human interventions which mimic and temporarily replace the role of the missing, or greatly reduced, animal species. Where there are not enough animals left, we humans need to intervene and provide the seed spreading and seed planting roles which those animals would have provided.
However, currently many of the efforts to do so cause the local animals species to be seen as “the enemy” rather than the collaborators they ought to be seen as. For example: some projects try to offset habitat loss by planting large quantities of expensive tree seedlings, which then need to be “protected” from the local animal species by using fences or plastic spirals. The “habitat” is then being isolated from the very animal species which ought to be interacting with it.
For example, in the country where I live, Scotland, we are told that in some areas “there are too many deer”. This is patently untrue. What is true is that there is “not enough forest”, because most of it was chopped down years ago. More specifically there is not enough genuine forest, because the tree plantations being grown, with trees as a cash crop, are unsuitable for sustaining wildlife. These fake forests, or Frankenstein forests are merely there to cash in on grants with a plan to harvest the trees later. The local wildlife are seen as a “threat” to a cash crop tree plantations; they are not seen as a benefit.
Even genuinely ecological projects can fall into this myopic way of thinking and use expensive seedlings to help replant forests where other methods could be more flexible and more effective. Planting seedlings has it’s place, but it could be argued that it needs to be used far less often rather than being seen as the “Go to” method. “But what are the alternatives?”, you may be wondering.
A simple and highly effective way of restoring habitat is to mimic nature by using a Rewilding Stick to plant seeds in situ. Using a Rewilding Stick thousands, if not tens of thousands ( and with enough help, millions) of seeds can be gathered locally and planted locally. The obviates the need to manage and grow seedlings and then later to transport them to the planting site (by which time they are usually very heavy weight wise).
The very low embedded cost of planting seeds (such as by using a Rewilding Stick) rather than seedlings means that it is not a problem of the local animals consume some of the emerging plants. We want a healthy local animal population, so as long as a reasonable percentage of what we plant survives we want the local animals to engage with those plants. When the plants mature the indigenous animals will help spread the seeds of those plants.
Using a Rewilding Stick to plant seeds saves all the energy that it takes to grow seedlings in a plant nursery. It allows us to plant different types of seeds in the same planting session (different mixes of trees, flowering plants, shrubs etc). It allows us to see the local animal species as partners and helpers in our efforts to restore their habitat. With a Rewilding Stick we can often plant the seeds within cover of existing plants which will hide them till they get a chance to grow. No need to clear the ground before planting the seeds. We can plant the seeds by walking at a normal pace so no more back-breaking work of transporting seedlings, clearing the ground, bending to plant the seedlings, fencing them off (or using plastic spirals) and so on. Unlike seedlings the emerging plants planted this way, don’t need a year or two in order to recover from the shock of being transplanted and are more resilient once established.
A Rewilding Stick offers us a way to restore natural habitat that harmonises with the existing local animal species. It is often much easier and far more cost effective than planting seedlings. However, there is no need to take my word for it. On this page you will see links to videos on how to make and use a Rewilding Stick. It takes around 20 minutes to make one using simple tools and easily available components and it will enable you to plant seeds in rough ground every 10 second or less. Try one out for yourself and see how it can revolutionise the restoration of habitat and offset habitat loss and habitat destruction. A Rewilding Stick offers even a single individual a significant positive impact on their local ecology.
Once you have some experience of using a Rewilding Stick compare it with the time and cost of other methods and consider also the benefits of seeing indigenous animals as partners rather than as “a problem”. Then you will know from your own experience what works the best in your situation.
William Fergus Martin
Founder The Global Rewilding Initiative
& The Global Forgiveness Initiative