Discussion

The degradation, or land conversion, of natural ecosystems alters not only species richness and composition; it reduces ecosystem functionality, impacting the flow of ecosystem services, the costs of recuperation and ultimately human well-being (Flynn et al. 2009). Global and EU targets were designed for the conservation and restoration of natural ecosystems, including the biodiversity and ecosystem services that they sustain (see Chap. 11). For instance, Target 2 of the EU 2020 biodiversity strategy promotes the restoration and the use of green infrastructures (i.e interconnected network of ecosystems, such as wetlands and woodlands) with the goal of restoring 15 % of degraded ecosystems, through incentives based on EU funding and Public Private Partnerships (European Commission 2011a). In this context, the restoration of nature through rewilding can be seen as a solution to address the on-going agricultural land abandonment while developing a new rural economy offering multiple social and environmental benefits (Brown et al. 2011; Bryden et al. 2010; Donlan et al. 2006; Gantolier et al. 2010; Hein 2011; McMorran et al. 2006). We investigated the existence of the spatial co-occurrence of wilderness and ecosystem services supply at the EU scale (Fig. 3.2). Our results further suggest that the opportunity of restoring abandoned land in the Iberian Peninsula to a self-sustained natural state, via rewilding, could increase the supply of regulating and cultural services (Table 3.2 and Fig. 3.3). We thus argue that by restoring and sustaining wilderness areas we are underpinning a supply of high quality ecosystem services provided by those areas. These services will also heighten a new local economy, providing an economic break for the remaining rural communities through the creation of jobs and income generated from incentives, including from payments for ecosystem services, carbon markets, biodiversity markets, and eco-tourism (e.g. Bishop et al. 2008; Jack et al. 2008; Pirard 2012; TEEB 2010). Although, the concept of rewilding is fairly recent in Europe, it has already been identified as a costeffective management strategy for traditional land uses in Scotland (Brown et al. 2011; McMorran et al. 2006). In the Netherlands, rewilding has been positively perceived by people: individuals attribute a low willingness to pay for the conservation of extensive farming versus rewilding initiatives (van Berkel and Verburg 2014).

Farmland abandonment can lead to the potential loss of traditional cultural values and heritage, including local knowledge on farming and resource management, and locally adapted animal breeds and crop varieties (Cerqueira et al. 2010). Thus, choices have to be made case by case, and strategies should be designed to mitigate and avoid cultural losses. Furthermore, extensive agriculture and the maintenance of traditional activities provide a different bundle of ecosystem services from rewilding. Therefore, there might be instances where local communities or the public will prefer the bundle of services associated with rewilding, while in other places the bundle of services associated with extensive agriculture will be chosen.

In conclusion, we are not suggesting that rewilding efforts through assisted or passive restoration be the only solution to Europe's present situation. Instead we think it should be considered as a potential strategy in those areas where the socialecological dynamics of the landscape are no longer socially, economically or environmentally sustainable. Yet, there are still many challenges in understanding the full relationship between landscape management, the supply of ecosystem services, and the economic benefits and costs associated to each management type. We believe we need further research on the environmental, social and economic benefits associated to wilderness and rewilded areas. Raising awareness of these benefits may help to promote the concept of rewilding, and help gain momentum to define public policies and funding for rewilding activities.

 
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