"Abandoned Lands: A Hidden Resource for Restoring Biodiversity"

"Abandoned farmland has been increasing, with a billion acres — an area half the size of Australia — lost globally. Ecologists are increasingly pointing to the potential of these lands and of degraded forests as neglected resources for rewilding and for capturing carbon."

"Gergana Daskalova was nine months old when she was taken in by her grandparents in their small village in Bulgaria. It was soon after the fall of the Iron Curtain, and her parents had left for the city after the closure of the village’s state-run collective farm.

She grew up in a countryside emptying of people and with large areas of farmland lying abandoned. She eventually left too, traveling abroad and forging an academic career as an ecologist. But she never forgot her home village, where her childhood saw an ecological transformation paralleling the social one. As people left Tyurkmen, in Plovdiv province in southern Bulgaria, nature returned with a vengeance.

“Over the last three decades, I have seen Tyurkmen change as houses were abandoned, gardens engulfed by vegetation, and birds like pheasants and hoopoes became a more common sight than people,” she says. “The brambles are so thick, stepping on them feels like a trampoline. Looking back, it was these changes that inspired me to study ecology.”

But while most ecologists prefer to study pristine places, Daskalova has become one of a rising group of researchers focusing on the previously neglected ecology of abandoned land. She believes these neglected and often despised new wildernesses could be a crucial part of the planet’s salvation. If only we noticed and tended them, she says, they offer great opportunities for meeting both climate and biodiversity targets."

Fred Pearce reports for Yale Environment 360 October 3, 2023.

Source: YaleE360, 10/04/2023