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Wild bison back in Britain for 1st time in thousands of years to fight climate change

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Wild bison back in Britain for 1st time in thousands of years to fight climate change
A herd of wild bison is roaming the English countryside for the first time in thousands of years as part of an experiment to fight climate change. Photo courtesy of Kent Wildlife Trust

July 18 (UPI) -- Wild bison are roaming in Britain for the first time in 6,000 years in an effort to transform the country's ecosystem back to its natural state and fight climate change.

The Kent Wildlife Trust and Wildwood Trust released a small herd of European bison, also known as "woolly bulldozers," Monday into the West Blean and Thornton Woods nature reserve near Canterbury, Kent, which like the rest of England is in the grip of a heatwave.

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The three bison will spend their days rubbing against trees and knocking them down to provide space, light and deadwood to help other plants and animals thrive. Besides grazing and eating bark, the "ecosystem engineers" will also roll around in dust baths creating more open ground for foliage, insects and other wildlife to return.

The wildlife trust said it will eventually introduce other grazing animals, including Exmoor ponies, Iron Age pigs and Longhorn cattle, whose natural behaviors complement the bison for a more natural woodland that can absorb carbon and help mitigate climate change.

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Britain is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world, according to the Wilder Clean experiment, which blames a lack of woodland management for the decline.

"The restoration of naturally functioning ecosystems is a vital and inexpensive tool in tackling the climate crisis," Evan Bowen-Jones, CEO at Kent Wildlife Trust, said according to The Guardian.

"We want Wilder Blean to mark the beginning of a new era for conservation in the U.K. We need to revolutionize the way we restore natural landscapes, relying less on human intervention and more on natural engineers like bison, boar and beaver."

RELATED Without animals to disperse seeds, some plants may not survive climate change

Bison are Europe's largest land animal -- with bulls weighing up to a ton. They have been bred from zoo herds and are being reintroduced to the wild throughout Europe where they were extinct a century ago. The bison are still endangered.

RELATED Bid under way to bring back extinct cattle

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