After 6000 years, bison are returning to the UK to improve ecosystems

The ‘Wilder Blean’ project is bringing bison back. 6000 years ago, bison were hunted so intensely in the…

The ‘Wilder Blean’ project is bringing bison back.

6000 years ago, bison were hunted so intensely in the UK that they became extinct. A new project, though, is aiming to get the animals back into the UK’s ecosystems.

The project is known as ‘Wilder Blean’ because it will take place close to Canterbury in Blean Woods. It is being facilitated by the 2020 Dream Fund of the People’s Postcode Lottery, a lottery that supports “good causes” and has raised more than £500 million. Thanks to the Dream Fund, a total of £1,125,000 is going to the ‘Wilder Blean’ project.

But why does the UK need such a project? Kent Wildlife Trust explains that the UK is seeing species be threatened because of “lack of woodland management”:

In the UK, lack of woodland management is one of the eight biggest drivers of species decline. Wilder Blean aims to bring transformational change through a controlled trial with bison; a missing keystone species that is able to naturally manage woodlands.

Kent Wildlife Trust

And why are bison the creatures to do the job?

European bison are being used in this project because they are ecosystem engineers, meaning that they are able to change their environment through their natural behaviours. Bison can change woodlands in a way that no other animal can, they eat bark and create dust baths which each have benefits for many plants and animals…

Kent Wildlife Trust
Evan Bowen-Jones (Kent Wildlife Trust)

The bison that will be released are not quite the same as the bison that came before. The bison from 6000 years ago, the steppe bison, is completely extinct across the globe. The new bison will be the European bison. These are descendants of the previous species.

Other European countries have experimented with using bison to reform their ecosystems. Romania, Poland, and the Netherlands all saw success with bison improving habitats for native species.

Good luck to the UK’s Blean Woods and the incoming bison!

Ray Lewis (Kent Wildlife Trust)

You can learn more about the project on the Kent Wildlife Trust website.

Article source: Adapt Network, Kent Wildlife Trust

Featured image source: Amanda Fegan (Kent Wildlife Trust)

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