I'm not sure what's new... It's common practice to use grazing animals to keep growth in check, and it's also common to use ancient types. They manage better when left to their own devices than modern farm animals. All the time conservationists are trying out new old breeds, often hauled in from other parts of the continent, sometimes even further away, to see if they're happy and can do a job.
Animal rights activists in The Netherlands are very critical. I have no info on the specific animals in the link or whether they get additional feed, but there was outcry about the national forestry commission not supplying additional feed when thousands of animals were starving to their death this winter. While the forestry commission calls it nature's cause when a percentage of animals perishes during winter, the activists say it's not nature when the animals are closed in and cannot roam to different area when they've got nothing left to feed on. If you fence in, you have an obligation to care, is what they say.
Normally some 20 - 30% dies during winter, this winter it was 57% for an area called 'Oostvaardersplassen', where 2969 large grazing animals died. This was a headline issue here.
I'm not completely siding with these animal rights activists, but there is definitely tension between wanting to do things in a natural way and a very man-organised environment.
It can easily go wrong with reintroducing wild animals, like with the beaver. The beaver was bought back in The Netherlands in the early noughties, but they dig through dams and dykes, cause floods that way at huge costs, and so now they're being shot again. Again animal lovers won't be pleased.
Many times conservationists fail to look at the overall (big) picture, focusing only on a small part.
In the case of the use of Bison, it is not an indigenous animal to that land, thus it could become an issue.
Most of the people who do the majority of noise making are not able to see the health of the forest for all the trees in their way.
This also happens in government agencies which fail to see the overall view, they can become as uneducated about the natural workings of the world as the activists seem to be some times.
The difference is that the government can and does set regulations and rules and laws in place that are not fully thought through before being implemented.
Oostvaardersplassen is an experimental pleistocene rewilding project. I would dearly love links to the articles you mention, J. This project has been an interest of mine since ever I even heard of the term "permaculture."
The very idea of pleistocene rewilding is to reintroduce species that had been extirpated from places they once thrived, places that are comparatively barren now, likely because of that extirpation. Where some of those species become extinct, they introduce non-indigenous analogues from elsewhere. Examples of these are North American Bison used in place of the extinct Steppe Bison, and Przewalski's Horse or Heck Cattle introduced where wild horses and aurochs used to roam.
So while the animals introduced might not be as suited as those being reintroduced, the argument is that those niches exist for them in the landscape because of the vacancies left by the extinct species.
Obviously, a keystone species like the beaver isn't a good fit when the niche to support it doesn't exist, as in the case of the Netherlands, where humans have taken over the dam-building.
Personally, if the area north of the treeline becomes a seasonal grassland, I think it's a great idea to try and reengineer an analogue of the biosphere that existed when the climate last looked like that. It would result in accelerated nutrient cycling, enhanced carbon capture and sequestration, and perhaps a locking up of the methane in the permafrost before it all offgasses into the atmosphere.
Plus, reengineered Wooly Mammoth analogues. I said it. Who doesn't want to see giant herbivores cycling nutrients and enhancing carbon capture?
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
-Robert A. Heinlein
Location: Fryslân, Netherlands
posted 1 year ago
Chris Kott wrote:Oostvaardersplassen is an experimental pleistocene rewilding project. I would dearly love links to the articles you mention, J.
If you google 'Oostvaardersplassen' you'll get pages full of returns of articles like this, all of similar content, if your browser isn't avoiding the Dutch language at least.
It's digressing from the topic of the OP; it hasn't got much to do with those bisons, also I don't want to suggest (re)introducing wild animals is a bad thing. But the coverage in the article linked to in the OP sounded too much like an advertorial to me, and could well be. The Netherlands sells knowledge, and often novel projects are being undertaken to look a step ahead of the rest. To me the article read, "Look, we've got the cutest, coolest furry animals to take care of your drinking water ánd the environment - we are pushing the envelope thanks to our brilliant science team! Please do business with us!"
A rewilding project might in itself look as something a bit different to someone from a country which isn't as cultivated as The Netherlands, but here it's the norm - no nature if you don't bring it back first. The Netherlands is a low lying delta area where every plot has been shaped by human industriousness at some point. If areas were too low and wet the water got pumped away - even sea parts were claimed, in fact, the Oostvaardersplassen in the articles was once sea. Of course there were no mountains to get in anybody's way. If some area gets declared a nature conservation area in The Netherlands, it could mean that agricultural activity ceases, the mills get turned down a notch so that the groundwater level rises and a digger comes in to scrape off ground in places that will naturally fill with water. Native plants and small animals will also come back naturally. But large grazers will have to be introduced, and so this happens. It depends on what type of natural area what is being done to create it, but normally what is looked for is something the way it was before humans started to engineer the land to their liking.
This bringing back nature by human hand and the high level of management involved is probably something that goes a bit further than most people on this forum are familiar with. Forest regeneration, that's something people know of, I suppose. But when it comes to the level of design and control, the Dutch have always taken it much further than anybody else. I've always thought it is because without design and control, there wouldn't even be a Netherlands, or actually it would be more like Bangladesh, which is also a low lying delta area, but less controlled and so with more problems. It's harder to control as well, think only of having to deal with melting water coming from a mountain range like the Himalayas. Then the Dutch have it easy with theirs coming from the Alps.
The level of control you need to assert partly depends on your natural conditions. A cold climate alone alone alone already calls for control. In The Netherlands the level of control is high, some things going on here are obviously inspiring, but often it wouldn't be good to just copy-paste it to your region.
Yes, the idea of the beaver in a country like The Netherlands seems indeed daft, if you think of it.
I will suppress my every urge. But not this shameless plug:
Switching from electric heat to a rocket mass heater reduces your carbon footprint as much as parking 7 cars