• Rewilding Britain’s roadside verges could convert 1.2% of the country’s landmass to wildflower meadows.
  • The European Rewilding Network is an online platform launched to coordinate rewilding projects and help conservationists share knowledge and expertise.
  • Gardening activist groups are returning inner city areas to nature, increasing urban ecosystems.

The word “meadow” is common on UK street signs, but 97% of the wild lands they once referred to have disappeared since the 1930s.

Meadows and wild land support hundreds of species of wildflowers and plants, create essential habitats for wildlife, birds and the insects they feed off, and provide a natural store for CO2 which can help to tackle climate change.

Here are three ways people are working with nature to conserve existing ecosystems and rewild land to create new ones.

1. Creating roadside meadows

Roadside verges – the strip of greenery bordering roads and what lies beyond – cover 1.2% of Britain and provide a unique opportunity for rewilding, according to a new study published in Science Direct.

Scientists from the University of Exeter’s Environment and Sustainability Institute found that more than a quarter of Britain’s roadside verges consist of grassland, which is regularly cut rather than being left to grow wild.

Although some stretches need to be trimmed to allow motorists to see road signs and pedestrians, left untouched or mowed less frequently, this land could be used to grow wildflower meadows that create habitats for wildlife. There is scope to create a combined wildflower zone covering an area equivalent to five of Britain’s large cities: London, Birmingham, Manchester, Cardiff and Edinburgh, the Guardian reports.

“Our key message is that there’s a lot of road verge in Great Britain and we could manage it much better for nature. About a quarter of our road verges are mown very regularly to make them look like garden lawns – this is bad for wildlife,” Exeter's Ben Phillips, told the newspaper.

A massive spring wildflower bloom caused by a wet winter is seen in Lake Elsinore, California
Wildflower meadows act as a natural store for CO2.
Image: REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

2. Rewilding

Conservationists at Rewilding Europe are looking beyond roadside verges, aiming to make Europe a wilder place.

From safeguarding rivers from commercial logging activity in Northern Europe’s untamed snow covered Swedish Lapland, to rewilding abandoned farmland in the Southern Carpathian mountains of Romania, the group aims to reclaim wild landscapes at scale in at least 10 regions of European.

a chart showing biodiversity in different european cities
Even some cities in Europe are rich in biodiversity.
Image: Rewilding Europe

Working with local partners, these initiatives reclaim nature and explore ways that people can exist in harmony with the natural world and earn a fair living from the wild.

To connect new conservation projects, volunteers and other stakeholders, the group has launched the European Rewilding Network (ERN), an online platform that provides information and tools to help and support rewilding initiatives across the continent.

Members can access a project database and share their experiences and best practice knowledge of issues like raising public awareness of conservation, preserving ecosystems, reintroducing species, and working with local communities to develop sustainable employment.

A shepherd pastures his herd in the Carpathian Mountains
Abandoned farmland in the Southern Carpathians mountains of Romania is being returned to nature
Image: REUTERS/Konstantin Chernichkin

3. Guerilla gardening in inner cities

Since 1973, a group called Green Guerillas has been educating, organizing and cultivating community gardens in New York City.

Volunteers across the city’s boroughs and neighborhoods, come together to regenerate communal land and create urban gardens that bring apartment buildings and city blocks to life. Green Guerillas distribute soil, herbs and vegetable seedlings to community garden groups, helping them to harvest crops like tomatoes, beans and cucumbers.

The scheme encourages young people to develop green fingers by taking part in urban farming. The group’s Youth Empowerment Pipeline is a nine-month programme of workshops and urban gardening involvement that helps young New Yorkers develop employment and leadership skills while learning about food security.

How does the World Economic Forum encourage biological diversity?

How does the World Economic Forum encourage biological diversity?

In the last 100 years, more than 90 percent of crop varieties have disappeared from farmers’ fields, and all of the world’s 17 main fishing grounds are now being fished at or above their sustainable limits.

These trends have reduced diversity in our diets, which is directly linked to diseases or health risk factors, such as diabetes, obesity and malnutrition.

One initiative which is bringing a renewed focus on biological diversity is the Tropical Forest Alliance.

This global public-private partnership is working on removing deforestation from four global commodity supply chains – palm oil, beef, soy, and pulp and paper.

The Alliance includes businesses, governments, civil society, indigenous people and communities, and international organizations.

Enquire to become a member or partner of the Forum and help stop deforestation linked to supply chains.

North of the US border in Canada, another group of guerilla gardeners is also concerned with food security.

Volunteers armed with gardening tools are regenerating neglected city-owned lots in British Columbia’s Prince George.

Planting seeds and returning overlooked inner city land to nature provides a way for the area’s homeless and residents to grow their own food. These urban oases also provide new environments to help insects and inner city wildlife thrive.