Commission on Ecosystem Management


The goal of the Rewilding Thematic Group (RTG) is to synthesise and streamline the theory and practice of rewilding at an international level, from all perspectives and across all regions. We will achieve this through a sharing of experience within the wider (and growing) rewilding community and disseminating information to IUCN members and beyond.

Thematic Group Leaders: 
Ian Convery and Steve Carver

Core group: Adam Eagle, Yue Cao, Mark Fisher, Sally Hawkins, Zoltan Kun, Erwin Van Maanen

The concept of rewilding is relatively new, and whilst it offers great potential for reinvigorating conservation, it is currently defined and approached in several different ways. This is limiting the application of rewilding for ecological conservation and functional restoration. The Rewilding Thematic Group (RTG) is tasked with developing a conceptual and methodological framework for rewilding, within a framework of other ecosystem management concepts, including Cultural Practices, Nature-based Solutions, Ecosystem-based Adaptation, Ecosystem Governance, Ecosystem Resilience and Protected Areas Management.

The RTG’s goal is to synthesise and streamline the theory and practice of rewilding through a sharing of experience within the wider (and growing) rewilding community. The aim is to develop a more unified and cohesive rewilding approach that is both science-based and community-focused. The RTG is exploring ecological restoration in terms of a wildness continuum approach with an outcome of becoming increasingly ‘nature-led’ with self-sustaining ecosystems and minimal human intervention. This moves beyond a simple biodiversity approach to ecosystems and instead recognises the dynamic nature of trophic processes that express themselves on every continent across the globe.

The RTG is open to membership applications within the IUCN and comprises a core expert group that will act as the task-based delivery team lead jointly by Prof Ian Convery and Dr Steve Carver.

Activities to date

The RTG (previous Rewilding Task Force) has undertaken several key activities in meeting our goals to date. Based on these activities, we have been developing the Global definition and guiding principles for rewilding, including:

Systematic literature review: A systematic literature review has been done with the intention of establishing the phenomena that drove the evolution of rewilding, the principles or values that have been incorporated into the concept of rewilding, the aims of rewilding and the interventions/methods used to achieve those aims.

Survey of rewilding pioneers: A web-based questionnaire consisting of 25 questions relating to historical and current rewilding concepts, practice and demographic profile has been sent to selected rewilding ‘pioneers’ and its later adopters, as identified through journal and book publications, self-identification and further recommendations from those contacted. Invitations to participate were sent to a total of 126 people and 59 responses were received.

Review of rewilding principles of key organisations: Using the results from the pioneer survey, a sample of 10 key organisations and individuals were identified as being representative of geographical range and asked to provide their own lists of rewilding principles. These were combined into a single list and multiple similar principles, were merged into a single statement and the wording simplified.

Rewilding workshops: A series of five workshops and conference sessions held between April 2019 and January 2020 were used to generate expert opinion on the basic principles of rewilding. These have been attended in total by over 100 rewilding and ecological restoration experts drawn from both academic research institutes/universities and practitioners working in NGOs, government agencies and rewilding projects.

Planned activities and priorities for action

Rewilding Principles: Seek to publish the principles as an official CEM document.

Rewilding paper: A journal article detailing the work of the RTF/RTG is in preparation.

Book: A new book “The Routledge Handbook on Rewilding” is in preparation (expected publication by December 2021).

Marseille: The work of the RTF/RTG and the definition/principles will be presented at World Conservation Congress 2021 in Marseille.

Guidelines: It is intended to publish the definition and guidelines as IUCN Guidelines document.


The RTG is open for membership applications from within IUCN. The group is particularly keen to develop linkages to other IUCN groups and CEM Thematic Groups. The RTG is already part of the IUCN CEM IGNITE Group on ecosystem management and human health led by Carlos Zambrana-Torrelio.


Outputs from the RTF/RTG include: [all with links to separate PDFs]

  • Global Definition and Guiding Principles for Rewilding (in full)
  • Literature Review
  • Pioneer Survey results
  • North American origins of Rewilding
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