How did animals and people influence the landscape for hundreds of thousands, and even millions of years, before the rise of civilization?
That question provides the framework for Wilson Alvarez and his current work, The Reintegration Project, which examines the prehistoric ecosystem engineers of the Eastern United States as a way to understand how permaculture practitioners and rewilders can use biomimicry to replicate those influences and restore the landscape.
To dig into this question and the solutions he’s found, Wilson shares his thoughts on harmonic disturbance; functional extinction; taxon vs. mechanical substitution as two different approaches to land management for conversation rewilding; and how to bolster the ecosystem by planning for correct disturbances of the correct size at the correct time.
As one of my teachers, colleagues, and friends this interview with Wilson has less structure as we didn’t need an introduction to get started so we just started talking, with the interview beginning with an explanation of the idea of niche construction.
To find out more about Wilson and his work as a permaculture practitioner and rewilder, listen to our earlier interviews:
I’d also like to say that for anyone in the Mid-Atlantic the Horn Farm Center is an incredible resource for anyone interested in Agriculture, Permaculture, and Rewilding. Jon Darby, who appeared in the first group discussion of the podcast many years ago (Part 1) (Part 2), is the education director there and focuses on offering classes in these areas, often with Wilson as a lead instructor. Check out the events page and see if there is anything might be of interest to you.
My conversations with Wilson always restore some of my hope that we can achieve a number of our ecological, landscape, and management goals because of the way he provides practical, replicable advice on how to tackle the hard issues facing us. He continually develops ways to face the difficult tasks of working on the edges to manage the landscape and to do so with simple tools.
Though there are some ethical and legal issues we’ll probably need to discuss at some point before taking these practices to the required landscape scale, right now you can use the four ecosystems engineers that Wilson shared today — the beaver, wolf, elephant, and wild human — and look for similar prehistoric landscape changers in your area and how they impacted the land and begin applying the mechanical disturbances they did, now, where you are.
If, after listening to this episode you dive into the research of your local ecological engineers, I’d love to hear what you find and the ways they created disturbances.
The Permaculture Podcast
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From here the next interview is my conversation with Michael Judd on Natural Burials.
Wilson Alvarez – Practicing Permaculture On The Edge
The Permaculture Earthworks Giveaway (Closes January 11, 2018)
The Forest Garden Greenhouse Giveaway (Closes January 18, 2018)
1411 – Rewilding with Wilson Alvarez and Ben Weiss
1405 – Listener Questions on Zone 4 Permaculture with Wilson Alvarez and Ben Weiss
1347 – Restoring Eden with Wilson Alvarez and Ben Weiss
Horn Farm Center
Donate to Horn Farm Center and support The Reintegration Project
The Forest Man of India (YouTube)
Jadav Payeng (The Forest Man of India – Wikipedia)
The Biggest Estate on Earth by Bill Gammage
Bringing Nature Home by Doug Tallamy
Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv
1535 – Beyond the War on Invasive Species (Tao Orion)
1718 – Nomad Seed Project (Zach Elfers)