Next year the British countryside is set to welcome some extraordinary new residents as a small herd of European bison will be released in the 2,500-acre Blean Woods. Part of the innovative Wilder Blean Project, the bison trial aims to improve natural land management, and boost conservation and habit protection across the region.
Nature’s very own eco-engineers, bison help to shape and control the natural landscape. Through bark stripping and trampling these impressive creatures promote the healthy coexistence of grasslands and woodlands, improving habitat conditions for important insect species. Bison also are a key component in seed distributions while their penchant for wallowing, tree stripping, and dust baths creates added benefits for many species of plants, insects, and animals.
Unlike the often-harmful introduction of invasive species, bison are not a previously unknown part of the British ecosystem. While habitat changes and hunting may have led to the disappearance of the species in the UK today, if you visited Britain 6000 years ago then you could have found herds of wild bison roaming the countryside. The European bison that are set to be calling Britain home are a near identical replacement to the strain that disappeared from the British Isles some thousands of years ago.
A Wilder Approach
The Kent Wildlife Trust and Wildwood Trust are embarking on this project in a bid to not only strengthen ecosystems in the area but in an effort to reverse some of the damage already done. Without intervention it is estimated that species decline will further increase in the UK in the next ten years, with lack of woodland management being a key driver of this decline.
As human intervention on its own isn’t always sufficient to combat this level of decline, this is where the bison come in. Using a rewilding approach, the project plans to use the natural activity of the bison to help strengthen the environment and promote biodiversity. Bison introduction creates an innovative and nature-based response to help heal an ecosystem in crisis and allow species to bounce back to safer levels. Similar projects, albeit with smaller animals, are already underway, with numerous beaver introductions across the UK and Europe in an effort to provide a natural way to improve the function and health of waterways.
This wilding approach to conservation gives nature the space and the tools to heal itself, creating a more sustainable process for land and species management. The bison are expected to be introduced from the Netherlands or Poland with this introduction not only improving conservation efforts in Britain but aiding in the conservation of the European bison, a species that has been in a precarious position since the early 20th century.
The Wilder Blean project is a bold and innovative step in repairing and protecting the British countryside. A project that aims to give control back to nature to improve biodiversity and land management techniques as well as assist in the protection of the incredible European bison. While these amazing animals are not due to arrive until next year, we cannot wait to welcome them to the UK.
For more information about the Wilder Blean Project or to find out how you can get involved visit https://www.kentwildlifetrust.org.uk/wilderblean
By Emma Tidswell