We cannot simply ‘leave it to wild nature’. As anyone knows, if you simply leave a piece of land with no interference whatsoever it will eventually end up in close canopy woods – i.e. when there is nothing present in the landscape to kick-start the system, all you will get is very species-poor habitat. This is what would have happened at Knepp had we done nothing. Introducing free-roaming grazing animals – obviously at low densities – can create the kind of competition between disturbance and vegetation succession that is hugely productive for wildlife, resulting in habitat complexity and structure variation – the ‘margins’ where most of life lives.
John Muir was an early proponent of a view we still hold today—that much of California was pristine, untouched wilderness before the arrival of Europeans. But as this groundbreaking book demonstrates, what Muir was really seeing when he admired the grand vistas of Yosemite and the gold and purple flowers carpeting the Central Valley were the fertile gardens of the Sierra Miwok and Valley Yokuts Indians, modified and made productive by centuries of harvesting, tilling, sowing, pruning, and burning.
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