Institut for Biologi

Aarhus Universitets segl

J.-C. Svenning

Analogous losses of large animals and trees, socio-ecological consequences, and an integrative framework for rewilding-based megabiota restoration

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Large-sized animals (megafauna) and trees (megatrees) are key ecosystem components with high cultural and economic importance going back millennia. Once common, both groups of megabiota have been massively reduced in pre-historic and historic times, with human-induced downsizing still ongoing. Key ecosystem services provided by megafauna and megatrees include nutrient and seed transfer, carbon allocation, climate regulation and biodiversity facilitation. Socio-cultural services include food and timber provisioning and the ‘charisma’ of large-sized organisms, with its associated high cultural, recreational and nature conservation values for human societies worldwide. Conservation and restoration of megafauna and—trees in a socio-ecological framework are needed to counteract past and ongoing analogous downsizing of both groups of megabiota and the loss of important ecosystem services in a human-dominated world. Importantly, synergistic megatree–megafauna restoration promotes self-regulating biodiverse ecosystems across the full range of land use intensities ranging from current downsized wildlands to highly human-modified landscapes. We propose an integrative rewilding-based restoration framework applicable across the whole range of human land use intensity. This includes individual-based protection, assisted colonisation and facilitation of urban wildlife. Active management of megafauna and -trees can be economically beneficial and necessary to minimize human–wildlife conflicts in highly human-dominated landscapes. Societal acceptance and adaptation to old big trees and wild megafauna are prerequisites for successful megabiota restoration in human-modified landscapes and elsewhere where human–wildlife conflicts are hard to avoid. The prime goal of such integrative rewilding activities should be a proactive facilitation of the self-regulation potential of natural and novel ecosystems for which large-sized trees and animals would be some of the most important components for enhancing biodiversity and societal value in the Anthropocene. Such megabiota restoration needs to be done on a wide scale to restore functional effects on the biosphere. A free Plain Language Summary can be found within the Supporting Information of this article.

TidsskriftPeople and Nature
Sider (fra-til)29-41
Antal sider13
StatusUdgivet - mar. 2020

Bibliografisk note

Funding Information:
This work is a contribution to the Carlsberg Foundation Semper Ardens project MegaPast2Future (grant CF16-0005) and to the VILLUM Investigator project ?Biodiversity Dynamics in a Changing World? funded by VILLUM FONDEN (grant 16549).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 The Authors. People and Nature published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Ecological Society

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

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