I was recently asked if Wilderness is a threat to traditional nature conservation concepts? Besides the conclusions from that discussion, the subject itself stimulated in my mind several ideas afterwards.
The first question that popped into my mind was: What defines traditional nature conservation concepts?
Often it is a species-oriented approach e.g., number of species per square meter or actively maintaining the current composition and structure of biodiversity. Typically (but not always) this is the objective of Natura 2000 management plans. In such a scenario obviously wilderness does not support this concept completely.
If nature conservation implies human management and restoration measures, as we often see in many areas, than again wilderness is not a perfect match. Nature evolves and manages itself much better than we humans can. In fact, nature is the best rewilding force there is, as can be witnessed in Chernobyl, Königsbrücker Heide, Mount St Helen and even on Hawaii.
However, if we are talking about the more the complex approach, where the flora and fauna are important elements of the spontaneous natural processes and dynamism, than wilderness has an important role! We often also call wilderness self-willed land!
So my conclusion and the answer to the question at the beginning of this post is: NO! Wilderness is not a threat to the traditional nature conservation measures if we stop managing wilderness, but rather observe and take a stewardship role in the proccess! It is definitely an often ignored natural approach in the European of the nature conservation world.
Wilderness is not about benefits to biodiversity, it is about stewardship of natural habitats. In fact biodiversity often declines since nature manages biodiversity without specific goals or objectives so typical to the human nature conservation approach. Wilderness is about protecting human mankind from destroying the basis of human life and not about protecting habitats… Wilderness will survive humans, but humans will not survive without wilderness. Max A. E. Rossberg, Chairman of the European Wilderness Society