Animal reintroduction and rewilding are two widely appealing and frequently connected forms of ecological restoration. However, the critical assumption that animal reintroduction automatically helps to restore formerly wild places is under-theorized. To fill this void, we identified three common rewilding elements from the literature-ecological functioning, wilderness experience, and natural autonomy-and screened these against a hypothetical wolf reintroduction to Scotland. Each of the rewilding elements was likely to be positively impacted by a wolf reintroduction. Yet, there is a key conceptual difficulty in that the different rewilding elements do not necessarily enforce each other, and at times may even collide. Thus, a reintroduced species like the wolf may obfuscate the clear-cut, purified nature category to which rewilding often aspires. As a way forward, we suggest that there is merit in actively engaging with the tensions created by rewilding and reintroductions. A reconceptualisation of the nature-culture spectrum as consisting of multiple layers (e.g. ecological functioning, wilderness experience, and natural autonomy) may help to interpret ecological restoration as a tentative, deliberative, and gradual enterprise. This bears some resemblance to the notion of approaching a landscape like a 'palimpsest' (i.e. a text built up of different layers written on top of each other), which may support the reconciliation of conflicting views without necessarily making those disappear. When viewed as feeding into a multilayered nature-culture spectrum, animal reintroduction and rewilding can be promoted as inspiring and essentially non-controlling forms of ecological restoration and human interaction with nature.
- Ecological restoration
- Grey wolf (Canis lupus)