What we do

Although rewilding is gaining traction and popularity as a low-cost approach to fight the climate and biodiversity crises, a lack of comprehensive research prevents it from being fully integrated into Europe’s strategy to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Rewilding’s potential contribution to important policies such as the EU Biodiversity Strategy, the EU Nature Restoration Law, the Fit for 55 Package and the EU Green Deal is currently not clear due to a lack of scientific knowledge on the topic.

To rewild or not to rewild?

What would happen if rewilding was implemented on a large scale in Europe?

Halting forest management (proforestation) in some areas may increase the amount of carbon sequestered in trees and soils. Meanwhile, in other areas, especially where the climate is very dry, a lack of forest management might cause an accumulation of dead leaves and wood, which could make forests more vulnerable to forest fires. This would increase emissions of carbon into the atmosphere instead of boosting carbon sequestration.

Another example is the rewilding of abandoned agricultural land, which may allow for natural forest expansion, create areas for recreation, strengthen the tourism sector and increase the cultural value of landscapes. In different locations, though, it might compete with other land uses, creating social opposition to rewilding projects.

Our work

WILDCARD is identifying priority areas where rewilding achieves the most benefits for the climate, biodiversity and society.

We are, for the first time, quantifying such benefits at the European scale by combining satellite and field data from hundreds of strategic and representative locations where rewilding of abandoned agricultural lands and proforestation are occurring all over the continent.

Establishing a fruitful dialogue with local people will also provide insights on where rewilding is most feasible and might work in complement to other ecosystem restoration strategies.

Finally, the project will recommend proper management and policy-level strategies to deal with rewilding at the EU scale, ensuring it reaches its full potential now and into the future.

Project objectives

Specific objectives infographic