In most of the Scottish Highlands, red deer and domestic sheep have significantly damaged forest communities. This damage is related to the extermination of carnivores that preyed on these species, namely wolves.
Alladale Wilderness Reserve is one of the most remote and beautiful places in Scotland, and one of the largest conservation estates in Europe. It is also a leader among national organizations working to create healthy, ecosystems resilient to climate change in Scotland and to demonstrate best conservation practices. The European Nature Trust (TENT) is very actively rewilding this landscape. This means that habitat for wild creatures that once roamed this rugged terrain and have been missing for centuries is in the process of being restored.
Earthwatch is working in partnership with the University of St. Andrews to examine how this system functions in the absence of wolves—an ecological force present throughout Scotland until humans eradicated them. Today, scientists have learned that it was an enormous mistake to remove this keystone predator. In the absence of wolves, red deer grow bold and damage their habitat. Conversely, ecosystems that contain keystone predators are more resilient to climate change and support greater biodiversity.
Volunteers will help document the effects of the exciting ecological restoration that already has taken place at Alladale, and will also help collect data to improve global awareness of the critical importance of rewilding ecosystems to create a more sustainable world. This project will be a rewilding adventure filled with compelling data and an opportunity to contribute in a major way to advancing conservation. Findings will help inform future management and conservation plans and will help determine whether to reintroduce wolves and brown bears to this iconic landscape.