According to a report by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), poorer communities may be forced to flee their areas and become rescued due to “green gentrification”.
The report notes that rewilding could lead to higher house prices as areas become more desirable and the risk of being affected by natural disasters such as floods decreases. New tourism opportunities can also arise from improved green spaces and wildlife.
Without careful implementation, the report’s authors note, “green gentrification” could take place, with local communities priced out of their areas. The report recommends consulting and collaborating with sociologists and other experts, as well as local communities, in any urban nature restoration project.
The author of the report, Nathalie Pettorelli, of the ZSL Institute of Zoology, told the Guardian:[The rewilded area] it could be created in areas of deprivation and could cause green gentrification. It is greener, and because it is greener and more beautiful, house prices go up.
“This is not just an ecological problem, it is a socio-ecological problem; you have to take people into consideration at all times and find out if you will create inequalities ”.
This is not just an issue with restoring nature, he said, but any improvements made to urban areas, with the safeguards needed to ensure local communities can stay and enjoy the new or improved green spaces and have a say. in what is created.
“Many people who work on rewilding are ecologists at heart: sometimes they forget the social aspect,” said Pettorelli. “It has to be a common sociological cause: if you don’t take people into consideration, it won’t work in the long run.”
If these tensions are resolved, rewilding could be good for disadvantaged communities, who are usually more at risk from the negative effects of the climate crisis, including air pollution, heat waves and floods.
Pettorelli said: “This could really be a great thing because, if people learn to live with nature, it can … actually reduce inequalities by having all these mental and physical benefits, reducing air pollution, which often has. a greater impact on people in disadvantaged areas, for example, and giving people a green space to enjoy ”.
Rewilding has long been associated with the reintroduction of large carnivores to vast, untouched landscapes, but the study said city ecosystems could also be made wilder, which would mitigate the damage caused by the climate crisis.
Although green space in urban areas may be relatively small, when taken together – and linked – these patchworks cover a lot of ground, so they could be vital for storing carbon and reversing biodiversity loss, the report says. By creating wetlands around towns and cities, the effects of flooding could be dramatically reduced and by adding greenery to buildings, as well as creating green spaces, urban areas could be cooled during heatwaves.
The report found other challenges presented by the renaturalization of urban areas, including the colonization in the UK of invasive alien species such as the Japanese knotweed, which could benefit from low intervention methods to take root and spread. The report also raised fears that the public may be encouraged to release species in unsuitable areas, so education on such projects is needed.
The report looked at good examples of urban regeneration around the world, including Singapore, which transformed its Kallang River from a straight concrete canal to an undulating paradise for nature with lush river banks. The river has been reconnected to the floodplain and better public access has been created. This reduces the risk of flooding, increases biodiversity and offers residents a nice place to stroll.
The report also highlighted Germany’s Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord, located on a former ironworks, which has become a popular hiking spot since it was left to nature for recolonization.
Ecosystem Engineers: Animals that could be restored in UK cities
Pettorelli provided the Guardian with examples of animals that could be reintroduced to UK cities.
This wetland-creating rodent could thrive on the outskirts of cities. He has already been reintroduced – in paddocks – outside London.
“This is a highly endangered species, using the UK’s major rivers, and you could improve migration passages for that species,” Pettorelli said.
Already reintroduced to Kent, southern towns with good open marshes could enjoy a revival of this remarkable bird.
“Otters are doing very well in UK cities,” Pettorelli said. “They are spotted in Edinburgh, Manchester, Birmingham and Bath – there is potential for them elsewhere.”