Knepp Estate Re-Wilding Project

Using natural processes to deliver multiple ecosystem benefits...

The Knepp Estate, near Horsham, has, over the past 10 years been undertaking a project to restore the majority of the 3,500 acre estate to its condition before intensive agriculture took its toll.

The estate sits on low quality clay and was used for agricultural production during WW2. However, without receiving farm subsidies agricultural production quickly became un-economic.

The re-wilding has been achieved by stopping the application of fertilisers and other chemicals and by removing ploughing and intensive grazing from the existing management. By introducing a mixed grazing regime comprising cattle, deer, pigs and horses and allowing them to roam as freely as possible, habitat change and enhancement is being achieved.


Ecosystem Service Benefits:

Food Production:
Through the use of traditional breeds the food yield, although lower, will be of higher quality and likely to obtain a higher value.

Fresh Water Quality:
Reduced stocking levels will reduce animal related pollutants entering water. In addition the creation of water meadows is expected to increase the filtration of toxins and make small improvements to downstream water quality.

Flood Alleviation:
It is hard to evaluate the impact of the project on flood alleviation, however the creation of water meadows will increase flood water storage capacity and as such is expected to have some impact and it is possible that the scheme will “provide significant flood mitigation” (Hodder et al, 2010).

Climate Regulation:
Through the reduced number of animals on the estate it is expected that there will be a saving equivalent to over 2,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions per year. In addition the associated habitat changes through the new management are estimated to be able to sequester approximately 1,789 tonnes of CO₂ per year.

Significant improvements are expected as a result of this project. The report by Hodder et al, 2010 indicates that a 622% increase in Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) priority habitats is to be expected through the development of a dynamic mix of grass and scrub.

Genetic Resource:
Using local breeds within the grazing regime for the estate assists with maintaining the required genetic diversity for these rare breeds.

Useful links and further information:

downloadable_pdf Natural England (2012). Valuing Ecosystem Services: Case Studies from Lowland England. Annex 4: Knepp Castle re-wilding: Sussex

downloadable_pdf Hodder, K. H., S., D., Newton, A., Bullock, J. M., Scholefield, P., Vaughan, R. (2010). Analysis of the Costs and Benefits of Alternative Solutions for Restoring Biodiversity.


Knepp Estate Website: