In the spring of 2022 in the English County of Kent, appears a herd of four bison. As reported by the Guardian, the animals have to take on the role of ecosystem engineers and to transform the forest reserve in the Damn woods in a more diverse habitat for numerous plants, insects and birds. The project cost is one million pounds.
Only a few tens of thousand years ago Europe was inhabited by numerous large mammals — the so-called megafauna. Among them were the giant herbivores of a type of mammoth and giant Irish deer, and hunting their predators. Unfortunately, till today survived a few of them. Apparently, to blame it is our ancestors who too hard was producing animals for their meat.
However, the disappearance of the megafauna is not just a loss of interesting animals. Large herbivores are considered to be ecosystem engineers that form landscapes and provide the conditions for the existence of thousands of other species. Without them, many ecosystems are unable to function normally and gradually degraded.
In recent years, more and more professionals interested in restoration of the Pleistocene megafauna as a way to make ecosystems more resistant and slow down climate change. Since the cloning of extinct animals remains impossible, they propose to replace extinct species, their ecological equivalents and to settle the surviving species to where they disappeared last. A textbook example of this kind — “Pleistocene Park” in Yakutia, the brainchild of ecologist Sergei zimova.
In Europe also there have been similar projects. For example, the world wildlife Fund Kent County announced plans to settle in the UK bison (Bison bonasus). Once these wild oxen, sometimes reaching a weight of 900 pounds, was populated most of the European continent, but in the XX century almost extinct. In our days most bison live in the Bialowieza forest on the border of Poland and Belarus. In addition, small populations have been established in some regions of and Europe.
In Britain the aurochs may not have lived. However, even six thousand years ago lived here their close relative and possible ancestor of the steppe bison (Bison priscus). Foundation staff hope that bison will be the ecological analogue of the extinct species. According to the plan, the animals will thin out the young shoots of the wood, creating a forest glade. Furthermore, they will kill individual trees, eating them from the bark. All this will create more diverse habitat for plants, insects and birds. Among the species that will benefit from the settlement of bison — Western nightingales (Luscinia megarhynchos) and common turtle doves (Streptopelia turtur), which are becoming increasingly rare in the UK.
The project worth one million pounds is scheduled for spring 2022. By this time in the sanctuary Pancake woods in Kent are expected to release the first bison arrived from Poland or the Netherlands: one male and three females. Ecologists hope that every year each female will produce a calf that will ensure a gradual growth of the tiny herd. First it will live in a fenced area of 150 hectares. When bison are comfortable, it will increase to 500. Experts plan to carefully monitor the health of the animals, but to provide them food or shelter is not planned. The growth of the herd and its population will regulate catching of birds and sending them to other regions of the UK.
In working on his project for the introduction of bison to the British ecologists rely on the experience of Poland. To learn more about how the Polish experts saved the last wild ox of Europe, from our material, “Change the five bison twenty deer”.
Sergey Knee High