Sunday, August 2, 2020

The Wild Bison the United Kingdom

Environmental & Science Education
Edward Hessler

It has been 6000 years since wild bison were found in the United Kingdom.

This is about to change. According to an article by Environment Editor Damian Carrington for The Guardian, a male and three female European bison (Bison bonasus), will be released in a forest in Kent and allowed to breed naturally to slowly repopulate the land. The bison will come from the Netherlands or Poland. It is expected that each female will produce one calf per year.

Bison are viewed as a keystone species and through their activities, it is hoped, these will change or re-make the land which in turn will encourage broader biological abundance. One of the most important changes they will make in the habitat into which they are introduced is by killing some of the trees which will create "a healthy mix of woodland, scrub and glades, boosting inset, bird and plant life."

It is fair to think of the bison as "ecosystem engineers" in this "nature-based" approach to habitat and wildlife management. One thing leads to another. Bison rub against trees, ultimately killing them, the dead wood provides habitat for insects, insects provide food for birds, and the openings created change environmental conditions allowing new plants to grow.

Carrington notes that "Once the bison are settled, the public will be able to visit the area with rangers and watch the animals from viewing platforms. In the Netherlands, where bison projects have been running for 15 years, people walk through the areas without incident. Free-living longhorn cattle, “iron age” pigs, and Exmoor ponies will also live alongside the bison and assist in restoring the woodland."

The article describes some of the details, including important links and includes three photographs: Blean Woods where they will be released and of bison on the land in Poland and Germany.

For a discussion of some of the differences between European and American bison, see here.


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