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Wilderness, Rewilding and Ecosystem Services

Wilderness

Wilderness areas have been defined as large natural areas, unmodified or slightly modified, governed by natural processes, with no human intervention, infrastructure or permanent habitation present (Wild Europe 2012). Nordic mountains represent the highest proportion (28 %) of wildest areas, followed by the Pyrenees (12 %) the eastern Mediterranean islands and Alps (9 %), and British Isles (8 %) (Carver 2010). However, remnants can also be found throughout much of the continent, where anthropogenic interference has slightly altered the natural ecological conditions (Carver 2010). The definition of wilderness will depend on the metrics chosen (see Chap. 2) and, as a result, its spatial distribution can vary from one study to another. Currently, there are several maps on potential wilderness in Europe. Here we chose to use Carver's (2010) quality wilderness index.

Wild ecosystems provide a wide range of ecosystem services. They are stable and self-sustainable, able to maintain their structure, function and resilience over time (Costanza and Mageau 1999). They play an important role in protecting services such as, air quality, freshwater provision, and supporting wildlife, including charismatic species, such as bisons and bears, that are reliant on wilderness areas (Russo 2006; see Chap. 9). Wild ecosystems also have the capacity to supply higher quality services than other types of systems. For example, there is higher carbon storage capacity in undisturbed forest, peatland and wetland (Schils et al. 2008), subsequently providing additional environmental benefits (e.g. biodiversity, water storage and water quality). Moreover, wilderness areas provide a range of social and economic benefits. Several programs have integrated the use of wild areas to address urban issues such as youth at risk, youth development and rehabilitation (Hill 2007), and recognized it as a cost-effective form of healthcare. In addition, wilderness inspires educational programs (e.g. Chap. 10). Wilderness areas also provide spiritual benefits, such as, solitude, places of inspiration, a calm environment, and recreation/tourism (Ewert et al. 2011; Heintzman 2013). These cultural services can give birth to employment opportunities and thus generate income. For example, the Oulanka National Park in Finland brings 14 million € per year to the local economy and employs 183 individuals (Huhtala et al. 2010).

 
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