RSK Wilding has once again caught the attention of the press as new environmental legislation is set to mandate the delivery of a 10% biodiversity net gain for many developments.

BBC Wildlife Magazine journalist James Fair spoke to RSK Wilding Director, Jon Davies, about whether “turning nature into a number” and applying biodiversity net gain metrics could “turn the tide of the wildlife losses that have caused the UK to become one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world”. The article considers whether landscape-scale rewilding could prove a better alternative to on-site mitigation. Jon believes that this will certainly the case in many cases, or at least a combination of the two. RSK Wilding will help clients to not only meet the requirements for biodiversity net gain (BNG) through rewilding, but also to offset their carbon emissions. By doing so, the business aims to help reverse decades of environmental degradation, biodiversity loss and the impacts of climate change by sensitively rewilding land in collaboration with landowners, local communities and non-governmental organisations. The degree of rewilding will be determined by the size and type of site, Jon continues.

One of the key advantages for biodiversity net gain is that developers will be encouraged to build on unwanted land with “little wildlife value”, the article continues. “Wildlife-rich areas” are more likely to be left undisturbed because they will be more expensive to compensate for through biodiversity net gain.

One danger that the article warns against, is “how metrics can be used to distort the truth and twist reality to the benefit of the developer”. It cites Gavray Meadows in Oxfordshire, UK, as an example. The wildlife-rich area was granted planning permission for housing in 2016. This was soon overturned in court when the biodiversity metric used was found to be distorted.

Jon, however, is confident that the new legislation will have a positive effect, and “believes the combined levers of net gain and rewilding allow us to plan wildlife restoration in a more strategic manner”. He’s looking at working in locations highlighted by Natural England as priority areas for restoration, thus potentially bringing greater connectivity to the UK landscape. The article goes on to note that “Recreating wetlands – with the help of beavers – could help to store water upstream of areas that are liable to flood, and sequester carbon, contributing to UK emissions reduction plans”. These other natural capital benefits, in addition to biodiversity restoration, are another reason why rewilding is becoming so popular.

Subscribers can read the article in full in BBC Wildlife’s February 2021 issue (pp.28-31).