What we do

Uncovering the future rewilding hotspots of Europe

How much land will become available for rewilding and what does it deliver at the European scale?

Europe’s areas facing agricultural abandonment and reduced forest management offer vast potential for rewilding. In fact, natural rewilding is already taking place all over the continent. This trend is likely to continue with the EU Biodiversity Strategy’s target to increase the EU’s share of strictly protected land from 3% to at least 10% and the expansion of ecosystem restoration foreseen in the new EU Nature Restoration Law (i.e. restoring at least 20% of the EU’s land and sea by 2030).

Through our land use models – computer simulations that make land use predictions considering the Earth’s future climate and socio-economic scenarios – WILDCARD will reveal the locations where rewilding is most likely to occur in the coming decades.

These “rewilding hotspots” will consider different scenarios of how global society, demographic and economic factors might change over time. Rewilding’s influence on and contribution to major European policies will also be taken into account, such as the European Green Deal and potential revisions of the Common Agricultural Policy.

Collage, forest and bird

For each location of potential rewilding, we are identifying positive and negative interactions.

On the positive side, these might include additional carbon sequestration possibilities, better recreation opportunities for local people provided by nature, and contributions to biodiversity, such as improved connectivity between green areas to enable the movement of large mammals through the landscape. On the negative side, some locations may suffer from wildfire activity, lower agricultural and timber production or the loss of species typical of agroecological ecosystems, such as insects that inhabit hedgerows, ditches and field margins.

This way, we will be able to assess where rewilding in Europe delivers the largest benefits in terms of climate and biodiversity targets, drawing implications and recommendations for policy and resource use planning.

Work Package Lead:

Prof. Dr. Peter Verburg, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

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