Aarhus Universitets segl

Large Herbivore Working Group visit

By Elena Pearce and Marianne Damholdt Bergin


The Large Herbivore Working Group is a UK-based group of rewilding practitioners, scientists, and legal experts. They visited Denmark last October to find out how we in Denmark work with reintroducing large herbivores to promote ecosystem restoration and how they can do the same!

They visited Lille Vildmose and Mols Bjerge National Park before meeting Marianne and Elena in Thisted, where they received a welcome talk from the Danish Nature Agency in Thy. Our first destination was Klitmøller, a haven of biodiversity with year-round grazing of Konik horses. Amidst the 220-hectare dune and coastal heath area, participants engaged in an insightful walk, delving into themes such as natural process restoration, nature monitoring, and practical considerations. A rejuvenating coffee break was enjoyed amidst this breathtaking landscape, where Marianne presented her work exploring herbivore ranges and site use using GPS collar data. The talk demonstrated the interconnected nature of science and practitioners in Denmark and was made even better by the arrival of some friendly four-legged visitors. 

Few things in ecology are as fun and exhausting as fieldwork. At the same time, it is one of the most important parts of our work as ecologists, allowing us to explore beautiful but remote areas and collect data specifically tailored to our research questions. Our work in the Waterberg area in South Africa marked the beginning of a number of field campaigns as part of ECONOVO.

To investigate the effects of wild large herbivores (also known as megafauna) and their community composition (i.e. functional diversity and density) on a variety of ecosystem properties such as plant diversity and spatial heterogeneity, we established field sites in 10 different reserves in the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve. These reserves are mostly privately owned and host different megafauna communities - from no large herbivores at all to a nearly complete megafauna community including elephant, rhino and buffalo. Work in the reserves included plant diversity assessment (for graminoids, herbs and woody species), measurement of some simple plant functional traits and terrestrial laser scanning (LiDAR), which allows us to obtain a three-dimensional picture of vegetation structure.

Given my, well, let's call it limited knowledge of the flora of southern Africa and the considerable amount of work required to collect this data, we were fortunate to have the fantastic help of our two field assistants, Anika Oosthuizen and Caroline Makofane.

Following our exploration, a well-deserved lunch awaited us at Koglehuset in Husby Klitplantage. Our next destinations were the future Nature National Park Stråsø, Lystbæk, and Vind Heath, where we saw more Exmoor ponies.

We had a fantastic few days with the Larger Herbivore Working group, where we shared experiences of the potential for and barriers to rewilding. Thank you to all who contributed to making this journey a memorable and enriching experience.

We look forward to future adventures together! 

Marianne Damholdt Bergin

Ph.d.-studerende Institut for Biologi - Økoinformatik og biodiversitet

Elena Annis Pearce

Postdoc Institut for Biologi - Økoinformatik og biodiversitet