10 Challenges When Rewilding Reclaimed Land


Rewilding is more important now than ever as nature struggles in our urban landscapes. There are many areas of wasteland, barren verges, and disused plots crying out for a new lease of life. But before you start trying to rush in and create a new wildlife haven, there are some challenges to overcome. Here’s a quick rundown of what to consider before taking on a rewilding project on reclaimed land.

1) Finding a viable site

This is the first hurdle to overcome. It could be more difficult than you realize. It’s one thing to dream of rewilding a patch of land in your area, but it’s another to get hold of that land. You might be lucky and have a piece of land that’s been donated for a good cause. There might be a piece of unclaimed wasteland ready to go. Or you might need to go through the difficult process of purchasing it for complete legal ownership. Even then, you still need to be sure that the area isn’t going to be a waste of time because of its location, environmental challenges, or other legal issues.

2) Cleaning up the mess

Once you find the perfect site and it’s ready for your team to tackle, expect the worst. This isn’t some nice pristine piece of new land that’s ready for new life. There is a good chance that it has been mistreated since becoming a wasteland. Get your tidying team together to carefully go through the area and remove all the trash and debris that’s accumulated. Then, you can get to work clearing out any unwanted vegetation so you can start planning the new design.

3) Determining soil quality

A big challenge with these waste plots is soil quality. Some hardy plants may have survived here, but it might not be suitable right now for much else. How deep is the soil layer? Is there way too much rubble and concrete under there for substantial planting schemes? What about the soil type and pH level? Testing all this will give you a better indication of what you can plant.

4) Wind erosion

The quality of the soil and the viability of the site for planting can depend on the risks of erosion. Wind erosion is a problem in some windy areas with exposed slopes and dry soil. We see wind erosion with sand dunes, which can shift significantly over time. But the same goes for other coastal areas of land or vulnerable hillsides. The good news is there are erosion control products out there that can protect the structure of reclaimed land and prevent excessive soil erosion.

5) Water erosion

At the same time, you also need to watch out for the risks of water erosion. Some of these reclaimed areas may be susceptible to damage from heavy rain or water runoff from nearby sources. Flood-resistant planting can play a part in keeping the water levels under control. You can also bring in erosion control products from high-end suppliers to protect the surface.

6) Making a home for nature

The joy of rewilding projects – whether in your garden or on a community plot of reclaimed land – is that they offer a chance to support wildlife. You aren’t just planting beautiful flowers and sculptural grasses for aesthetics. These new parks and gardens should provide a sustainable home for nature by offering enough food, water, and shelter. Going back to the point about controlling water. In addition to protecting the land from rainwater erosion, you can add water features and ponds where appropriate. This will give any creature passing by a place to drink. Nesting sites for birds and pollinators also let you enhance the ecosystem and increase numbers.

7) Attracting the right species

This is a crucial point that some first-time rewilding teams may overlook. You have to make sure to attract the right species into the area. Ideally, this means finding a way to support native animals in trouble. Your new reclaimed area could give them a vital patch where they can raise their young and have a better chance of survival. What you don’t want to do is bring in any non-native species that could upset the balance.

8) Using the right plants

One of the best ways to attract the right species is to bring in the right plants. Again, you can’t just put anything you like into this garden and expect any insect or bird to turn up. Many species of butterflies require specific native plants to feed and lay their eggs. So, do your research on appropriate choices and offer enough variety to appeal to a broader ecosystem. Thankfully, some of the best companies offering erosion control products will also go out of their way to supply suitable plant species for the area.

9) Developing the land for human enjoyment

This is where designers of reclaimed land need to be careful with their balancing act. Nature has to come first to build something viable and worth the investment. However, you also want the area to be attractive and inviting enough to welcome humans. The more people that enjoy this repurposed land as a garden or small park, the better the chance that you work on other projects in the future. These visitors will be more inclined to donate to fundraisers, volunteer their time, and make sure all your projects are appreciated. It doesn’t take much. Make sure to add accessible paths, benches, litter bins, and some information points about the wildlife.

10) Maintaining everything long-term

Finally, once you’ve created your new park and everything is in place, you won’t be able to rest for long. The last thing you want is for the area to become a wasteland again because it was mismanaged. You have to be ready to put in the work to take care of all the planting, maintain all the features, and update any aspects that aren’t working to their full potential.

Rewilding a piece of reclaimed wasteland is challenging. The potential issues with the soil, erosion control, and effective conservation efforts require a lot of thought and effort. Still, you can enjoy the rewards when your vision comes to life. If you can transform a dead area into a haven for wildlife and people, it will all be worth it.

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