In this ‘wildland’ farm in Britain, species thrive and yields are high

Boris 2019_.jpg

Mr. Boris Johnson, UK Prime Minister. 2017 Brussels Conference on Supporting the future of Syria and the region. Copyright: European Union.

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Kate Whiting, Senior Writer, Formative Content


Just 25 km from the constant buzz of planes taking off at London’s second busiest airport, Gatwick, there’s a very different cacophony of sound.

“When you go out at dawn, you can feel your chest vibrating with the sheer volume of noise,” says rewilding pioneer Charlie Burrell. “That was the big difference: that vibrant noise created by all this life. I had absolutely no idea my land could feel and behave like that.”

 

From longhorn cattle to Exmoor ponies, deer and Tamworth pigs, for 16 years the Knepp Wildland Project (on the Knepp estate in UK county West Sussex) has been home to grazing animals that are helping to boost biodiversity while also providing sustainable, high-quality meat.

Before and after: how the landscape on the Knepp estate has changed under rewilding.
Before and after: how the landscape on the Knepp estate has changed under rewilding.

“When you’ve got all these animals running around in this sort of landscape, it begins to feel like scrub-land in Africa,” adds Burrell. “When you see your longhorn, it doesn’t look domesticated. It’s wild.”

Not only are herds of animals roaming free, the project has brought solutions to some of the natural world’s most pressing problems: from soil restoration and flood mitigation to water and air purification, pollinating insects and carbon sequestration.

No grain required

After taking over the 1,400-hectare estate from his grandparents in 1983, Burrell tried to turn a profit at Knepp Home Farm for 17 years, but found it hard to compete with larger farms based on better soils.

“The land we’re on is very heavy clay, so the soil is difficult to farm commercially,” he says, adding that with the combination of fungicides, herbicides and pesticides used in modern farming methods, “your soil is dead, it’s just dirt”.

How does the World Economic Forum encourage biological diversity?

How does the World Economic Forum encourage biological diversity?

In the last 100 years, more than 90 percent of crop varieties have disappeared from farmers’ fields, and all of the world’s 17 main fishing grounds are now being fished at or above their sustainable limits.

These trends have reduced diversity in our diets, which is directly linked to diseases or health risk factors, such as diabetes, obesity and malnutrition.

One initiative which is bringing a renewed focus on biological diversity is the Tropical Forest Alliance.

This global public-private partnership is working on removing deforestation from four global commodity supply chains – palm oil, beef, soy, and pulp and paper.

The Alliance includes businesses, governments, civil society, indigenous people and communities, and international organizations.

Inquire to become a member or partner of the Forum and help stop deforestation linked to supply chains.

In 2002, inspired by Dutch ecologist Dr Frans Vera and his ground-breaking book Grazing Ecology and Forest History, Burrell contacted the UK government’s advisory body for the environment, Natural England, outlining his plan to establish ‘a biodiverse wilderness area’.

Charlie Burrell farming maize before the switch to rewilding.
Charlie Burrell farming maize before the switch to rewilding.

Burrell admits making the switch from commercial to wildland farming was nerve-racking, but it has huge benefits beside the boost to biodiversity.

“There are no inputs, there’s no grain, there’s nothing being bought in, so the cost of production just drops away,” he says. “I know that the production isn’t huge, but it’s what the land can sustain. It’s what is able to live all year round without any supplementary feeding.”

In 2010, the project received government funding and is now considered a leading light for the country’s conservation efforts.

The bigger picture

In the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2019, biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse came within the top 10 lists of risks in terms of both Likelihood and Impact, making it one of the biggest threats facing humankind today.

And the report concluded: “Of all risks, it is in relation to the environment that the world is most clearly sleepwalking into catastrophe.”

In May, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) report found that a million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction, and many within decades.

Wildland farming can be an effective, low-cost method of ecological restoration.

Rare species like turtle doves, nightingales, peregrine falcons and purple emperor butterflies are now breeding at Knepp, and populations of more common species are rocketing.

Only the surplus of animals that the land cannot sustain are harvested, there’s no soil degradation from intensive farming practices and the amount of carbon locked in the soil is increasing. Knepp could be used as a prototype for rewilding abandoned and over-farmed land.

Burrell says: “We know there are maybe 60 years of harvest left on the planet in the conventional farming systems. Could we look at this landscape in a different way.. enhance it and feel proud about it … What about making it wild again? Isn’t that exciting?”

Read more about the inspiring pioneers finding creative solutions to the climate crisis here: https://wef.ch/pioneersforourplanet

About the series: Each week we’ll bring you a new video story about the people striving to restore nature and fighting climate change. In collaboration with @WWF and the team behind the Netflix documentary #OurPlanet. #ShareOurPlanet

Read more about it here.

Our campaign: Want to raise your #VoiceForThePlanet? Life on Earth is under threat, but you can help. People around the world are raising their voice in support of urgent action. Add yours now at www.voicefortheplanet.org

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Dangerous Trumpism in the Middle East with an anti-European edge

Scores killed in ‘barbaric’ attack on Mali village, UN chief urges restraint, calls for ‘dialogue’ to resolve tensions

How to fight back against misinformation and polarization

Responding to the anger

A Sting Exclusive: “Europe needs decisive progress for stronger cybersecurity”, EU Commissioner Gabriel highlights from Brussels

Afghanistan: UN envoy urges further extension of ceasefire with Taliban, as Eid ul-Fitr gets underway

JADE Spring Meeting 2015- Europe’s Junior Entrepreneurs together for 4 days of networking, workshops and forward thinking

Customs Union: Fake and potentially dangerous goods worth nearly €740 million stopped at EU customs in 2018

UN rights expert ‘strongly recommends’ probe by International Criminal Court into ‘decades of crimes’ in Myanmar

In this Tokyo cafe, the waiters are robots operated remotely by people with disabilities

MEPs adopt plan to keep 2020 EU funding for UK in no-deal Brexit scenario

Green light for VAT overhaul to simplify system and cut fraud

“The markets have moved on renewables, policy makers must keep up”, A Sting Exclusive by Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment

Do not take the EP’s consent on MFF for granted, says Budget Committee Chair

Why our future relies on more inclusive and transparent innovation

International World Summit Award calls for outstanding digital applications with impact on society from 178 UN member states

Eurozone’s bank resolution mechanism takes a blow

Fair and Simple Taxation: Commission proposes new package of measures to contribute to Europe’s recovery and growth

‘Step backwards’ for Bosnia’s autonomous Serb region as assembly reneges on Srebrenica genocide report

Here’s what keeps CEOs awake at night (and why it might be bad news for your next job)

Further reforms in Sweden can drive growth, competitiveness and social cohesion

Medical workforce migration in Europe – Is it really a problem?

COVID-19: What the evidence so far means for containment

Women lose most from the climate crisis. How can we empower them?

Why protesters disrupted London Fashion Week

The growing cyber-risk to our electricity grids – and what to do about it

What companies gain by including persons with disabilities

EU leads the torn away South Sudan to a new bloody civil war

What happens after you recover from coronavirus? 5 questions answered

#TwitterisblockedinTurkey and so is Erdogan

In aftermath of Libya airstrike deaths, UN officials call for refugees and migrants to be freed from detention

UN envoy commends successful conclusion of Guinea-Bissau presidential election

Zero carbon buildings are possible following these four steps

COVID-19: Maintaining the teaching experience for students whilst delivering teaching virtually

Why economic growth depends on closing the interview gap

The European Commission and EU consumer authorities publish final assessment of dialogue with Volkswagen

Children in crisis-torn eastern Ukraine ‘too terrified to learn’ amid spike in attacks on schools

Japan to invest in euro values

Subsidiarity and Proportionality: Task Force presents recommendations on a new way of working to President Juncker

Athens urged to fast track asylum seekers amid island shelters crisis – UNHCR

Accountability for atrocities in Myanmar ‘cannot be expected’ within its borders – UN investigator

GSMA Mobile 360: Connecting Cities, Connecting Lives, Connecting Europe

Why the next 4 months are crucial to the future of the ocean

Venezuela: MEPs call for free and fair elections in the crisis-torn country

Algeria must stop arbitrary expulsion of West African migrants in desert: UN migration rights expert

The ECB proposes a swift solution for SMEs’ financing

Questions & Answers on vaccine negotiations

ECB to support only banks not Peoples

UN chief highlights action across borders for ‘stable and prosperous Eurasia’

Will we join hands for a tomorrow without antimicrobial resistance?

Spread Her Wings: Let Her Fly

FIFA and UN kick off healthy living campaign, to harness global game’s ‘huge potential’

Corporate tax remains a key revenue source, despite falling rates worldwide

REACT-EU: EU support to mitigate immediate effects of the COVID-19 crisis

Warsaw wins 2020 Access City Award for making the city more accessible to citizens with disabilities

Turbocharging scientific discovery: with bits, neurons, qubits – and collaboration

FROM THE FIELD: India’s plastic waste revolution

Parliament’s interparliamentary delegations established

Black babies more likely to survive when cared for by Black doctors, suggests new study

The climate and COVID-19: a convergence of crises

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s