Rewilding in cold blood: Restoring functionality in degraded ecosystems using herbivorous reptiles

Elsevier, Global Ecology and Conservation, Volume 50, April 2024
Stark G., Galetti M.

Rewilding constitutes an ecological recovery approach that has been promoted to restore vanished ecological functions by replacing recently extinct or extirpated species through the reintroduction of the missing species or the introduction of their non-native functional analogues. In recent years we have witnessed many rewilding projects worldwide, with emphasis on (re)introducing large-bodied mammals (megafauna) in order to restore top-down trophic interactions and the associated trophic cascades and to promote self-regulating biodiverse ecosystems (i.e., trophic rewilding). However, this emphasis on large-sized mammals in conservation initiatives have ignored the importance of other taxa, such as reptiles, which can equally serve as potential candidates in rewilding projects. There appears to be a gap in the scientific literature in regard to the importance and effect of different taxa with the potential to play equal and important roles in ecosystem functionality and restoration. Consequently, there is a need for a comprehensive and systematic review of the subject. Here, we highlight the significance of rewilding using reptiles, focusing on herbivorous species, for the purpose of ecological restoration; and discuss how the taxonomic bias in rewilding initiatives has led to uneven conservation goals for certain vertebrate groups. Finally, we outline the consequences for reptilian rewilding under climate change and relate to how this group may fare in these conservation initiatives.