London Rewilding Projects – Making the city Green Again
Rewilding is the practice of restoring ecosystems to the point where nature can take care of itself. Sustainability experts see urban rewilding as a way to reverse species extinction, combat climate change, and improve our health and well-being; London is leading the way.
Citizen Zoo, a conservation group focused on community, is committed to returning wildlife that once flourished in our cities and towns. The group works with the Beaver Trust to identify potential sites to reintroduce beavers to London, England. Among the benefits that beavers bring to our urban habitats are their ability to reduce flood risks, improve water quality, and boost biodiversity
In addition to reducing flood risk, improving water quality, and enhancing biodiversity, beavers provide multiple benefits to urban habitats. The city of London could see beavers return within two years.
In addition, the group will introduce water voles to London as part of another re-wilding project. Water voles have lost around 97 percent of their original population in the last 30 years. There are probably fewer than 80,000 water voles living in the entire UK. The voles will be released into their new habitat next spring, bringing numerous benefits to the ecosystem.
Following the most recent pupping season, researchers from the Zoological Society of London reported that the Thames was home to 2,866 grey seals and 797 harbour seals.
Marine biologists use marine mammals as a barometer of the river’s health, with stable numbers indicating good water quality and reliable fish stocks. Despite being protected, seals face many threats, including disease, marine litter, entanglement in ghost nets – abandoned fishing gear – and entanglement in ship traffic.
The thriving seals demonstrate how far the Thames has come since 1950, when it was declared “biologically dead.” The Thames is full of life; the water quality has dramatically improved, and with it, the wildlife that belongs there.
Overall, London’s waterways are in a disgraceful state; pollution, sewage, plastic, and oil are all getting swept into the capital’s rivers. Thankfully citizens are passionate about improving them. One group has identified the potential for more than 1,000 wetland habitats to be created or rehabilitated. These habitats are being built in collaboration with several local authorities, Besides providing an excellent place for animals, they also act as a filter of sorts preventing plastic waste from entering rivers, storing carbon, breaking down pollutants, and slowing water flows to the main river, reducing flood risk.
The rewilding of London’s rivers aims to not only reverse nature’s decline but also to become more resilient to the changing climate. We must ensure that our rivers and homes are adapted for the future climate. Recent weather events, such as flooding, are becoming more common and are a symptom that our rivers aren’t adapted to the climate.
In 2019, the Mayor of London confirmed the capital as the world’s first National Park City, planting over 330,00 trees and improving more than 400 hectares of green space. The benefits of trees in urban spaces are numerous, from reducing flooding to cleaning the air and water. Trees remove 2.4 million tonnes of air pollution every year in the city, including carbon dioxide, dust, and other gaseous toxins.
Trees for Cities recently planted 50 trees in Seven Kings Park to “restore the park to its former glory while creating new wildlife habitats.” As part of another project in New Beckton Park, in Newham, a community orchard was planted not only to provide a local resource for wildlife but also to educate children about where fruits and nuts come from and how pollination works.
According to the UN, 68% or more than 4.2 billion people will live in cities by 2050. Rewilding is not just for rural areas or farmlands, it is needed in urban areas as well. Cooler, more resilient cities will be required in the future and will help make them more livable for future generations.