PhD title: The image of rewilding: Narratives and perceptions of rewilding in forest landscapes in the Netherlands
Supervisors:Liesbeth Bakker (WEC), Bas Verschuuren (FNP)
Abstract: In this geological time called the Anthropocene, the Earth’s ecosystems are experiencing a global biodiversity loss. Restoration of degraded ecosystems is urgently needed to bend the curve of biodiversity decline, and one way of doing that is rewilding. Rewilding aims to restore ecosystem dynamics and natural processes, while reducing past and present unsustainable human influences. However, without stakeholder support, the success rate of rewilding projects is limited. Especially in densely populated areas, rewilding can seem a controversial choice because it reduces human influences and gives more room to dynamics, which is in contrast with more traditional forms of nature conservation that assume a larger degree of human influence through active conservation management interventions. To successfully implement a rewilding project, it is therefore vital to take into account stakeholders’ perception of rewilding. Narratives associated with rewilding are influenced by the theoretical and ecological debates on rewilding, which in turn influences the perception of rewilding. In this study, I will analyse the narratives associated with rewilding as a conservation and restoration strategy in Dutch forest landscapes and investigate how these narratives influence people’s perceptions of rewilding. Furthermore, I will research how people perceive and relate to rewilding in response to such narratives and last, I will initiate the development of a new narrative with shared values.