Don’t hike so close to me: How the presence of humans can disturb wildlife up to half a mile away

What are you looking at? Greg Shine, BLM/Flickr, CC BY

by Jeremy Dertien (Clemson University); Courtney Larson (University of Wyoming); and Sarah Reed, (Colorado State University)

Millions of Americans are traveling this summer as pandemic restrictions wind down. Rental bookings and crowds in national parks show that many people are headed for the great outdoors.

Seeing animals and birds is one of the main draws of spending time in nature. But as researchers who study conservation, wildlife and human impacts on wild places, we believe it’s important to know that you can have major effects on wildlife just by being nearby.

In a recent review of hundreds of studies covering many species, we found that the presence of humans can alter wild animal and bird behavior patterns at much greater distances than most people may think. Small mammals and birds may change their behavior when hikers or birders come within 300 feet (100 meters) – the length of a football field. Large birds like eagles and hawks can be affected when humans are over 1,300 feet (400 meters) away – roughly a quarter of a mile. And large mammals like elk and moose can be affected by humans up to 3,300 feet (1,000 meters) away – more than half a mile.

Elk viewed over a hiker's shoulder.
A hiker about 75 feet from a bull elk in Yellowstone National Park. Jacob W. Frank, NPS/Flickr

Many recent studies and reports have shown that the world is facing a biodiversity crisis. Over the past 50 years, Earth has lost so many species that many scientists believe the planet is experiencing its sixth mass extinction – due mainly to human activities.

Protected areas, from local open spaces to national parks, are vital for conserving plants and animals. They also are places where people like to spend time in nature. We believe that everyone who uses the outdoors should understand and respect this balance between outdoor recreation, sustainable use and conservation.

How human presence affects wildlife

Pandemic lockdowns in 2020 confined many people indoors – and wildlife responded. In Istanbul, dolphins ventured much closer to shore than usual. Penguins explored quiet South African Streets. Nubian ibex grazed on Israeli playgrounds. The fact that animals moved so freely without people present shows how wild species change their behavior in response to human activities.

Decades of research have shown that outdoor recreation, whether it’s hiking, cross-country skiing or riding all-terrain vehicles, has negative effects on wildlife. The most obvious signs are behavioral changes: Animals may flee from nearby people, decrease the time they feed and abandon nests or dens.

Other effects are harder to see, but can have serious consequences for animals’ health and survival. Wild animals that detect humans can experience physiological changes, such as increased heart rates and elevated levels of stress hormones.

And humans’ outdoor activities can degrade habitat that wild species depend on for food, shelter and reproduction. Human voices, off-leash dogs and campsite overuse all have harmful effects that make habitat unusable for many wild species.

Disturbing shorebirds can cause them to stop eating, stop feeding their young or flee their nests, leaving chicks vulnerable.

Effects of human presence vary for different species

For our study we examined 330 peer-reviewed articles spanning 38 years to locate thresholds at which recreation activities negatively affected wild animals and birds. The main thresholds we found were related to distances between wildlife and people or trails. But we also found other important factors, including the number of daily park visitors and the decibel levels of people’s conversations.

The studies that we reviewed covered over a dozen different types of motorized and nonmotorized recreation. While it might seem that motorized activities would have a bigger impact, some studies have found that dispersed “quiet” activities, such as day hiking, biking and wildlife viewing, can also affect which wild species will use a protected area.

Put another way, many species may be disturbed by humans nearby, even if those people are not using motorboats or all-terrain vehicles. It’s harder for animals to detect quiet humans, so there’s a better chance that they’ll be surprised by a cross-country skier than a snowmobile, for instance. In addition, some species that have been historically hunted are more likely to recognize – and flee from – a person walking than a person in a motorized vehicle.

Generally, larger animals need more distance, though the relationship is clearer for birds than mammals. We found that for birds, as bird size increased, so did the threshold distance. The smallest birds could tolerate humans within 65 feet (20 meters), while the largest birds had thresholds of roughly 2,000 feet (600 meters). Previous research has found a similar relationship. We did not find that this relationship existed as clearly for mammals.

We found little research on impact thresholds for amphibians and reptiles, such as lizards, frogs, turtles and snakes. A growing body of evidence shows that amphibians and reptiles are disturbed and negatively affected by recreation. So far, however, it’s unclear whether those effects reflect mainly the distance to people, the number of visitors or other factors.

Graphic showing distances at which human presence affects animals' behavior.
Human recreation starts to affect wild creatures’ behavior and physical state at different distances. Small mammals and birds tolerate closer recreation than do larger birds of prey and large mammals. Sarah Markes, CC BY-ND

How to reduce your impact on wildlife

While there’s much still to learn, we know enough to identify some simple actions people can take to minimize their impacts on wildlife. First, keep your distance. Although some species or individual animals will become used to human presence at close range, many others won’t. And it can be hard to tell when you are stressing an animal and potentially endangering both it and yourself.

Second, respect closed areas and stay on trails. For example, in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, wildlife managers seasonally close some backcountry ski areas to protect critical habitat for bighorn sheep and reduce stress on other species like moose, elk and mule deer. And rangers in Maine’s Acadia National Park close several trails annually near peregrine falcon nests. This reduces stress to nesting birds and has helped this formerly endangered species recover.

Getting involved with educational or volunteer programs is a great way to learn about wildlife and help maintain undisturbed areas. As our research shows, balancing recreation with conservation means opening some areas to human use and keeping others entirely or mostly undisturbed.

As development fragments wild habitat and climate change forces many species to shift their ranges, movement corridors between protected areas become even more important. Our research suggests that creating recreation-free wildlife corridors of at least 3,300 feet (1,000 meters) wide can enable most species to move between protected areas without disturbance. Seeing wildlife can be part of a fun outdoor experience – but for the animals’ sake, you may need binoculars or a zoom lens for your camera.

Jeremy Dertien, PhD Candidate in Forestry and Environmental Conservation, Clemson University ; Courtney Larson, Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Wyoming; and Sarah Reed, Affiliate Faculty in Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology, Colorado State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Future perspectives on the role of extended producer responsibility within a circular economy: A Delphi study using the case of the Netherlands

Campbell-Johnston, K., de Munck, M., Vermeulen, W. J. V., & Backes, C. (2021). “Future perspectives on the role of extended producer responsibility within a circular economy: A Delphi study using the case of the Netherlands”. Business Strategy and the Environment, 1– 14. [open access]

Abstract: Extended producer responsibility (EPR) is a proposed policy approach to promoting the circular economy (CE) within the European Union. This research used a policy Delphi to explore perspectives on improving EPR policies to further contribute to the CE goals of the Netherlands. Both the potential improvement and critical reflections discussed by CE and EPR experts and practitioners from this study contribute to a more detailed understanding of the future governance of CE practices. We present various activities to improve EPR and insights from Delphi participants that emerged from the study. This paper shows that whilst actors agree, in essence, that there is a need for modifying EPR, what the specific changes to the form are and to

Decarbonisation Road Map for the European Food and drink Manufacturing Sector: A Report for FoodDrinkEurope

Download the document.

This roadmap has been developed by Ricardo Energy & Environment on behalf of FoodDrinkEurope. It assesses the climate impact of the European food and drink manufacturing sector, and sets out some of the available pathways for decarbonisation to net zero by 2050. The roadmap highlights the many opportunities that are available to the sector, whilst also discussing the numerous challenges and barriers that will need to be overcome.

This sweater is made from old bulletproof vests and firefighting gear

Read the full story at Fast Company.

The ultra-tough materials used in firefighting gear and bulletproof vests are very helpful for stopping flames or bullets, but those same properties make them difficult to recycle, so they usually end up in landfills. But Vollebak, a company that makes innovative clothing—like the world’s first graphene jacket—started thinking about how to use the trash as its newest material, for a garment it’s calling the Garbage Sweater.

Happy 50th birthday to Chez Panisse, the Berkeley restaurant that launched farm-to-fork eating

The entrance to Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California. Calton/Wikipedia, CC BY-SA

by Paul Freedman (Yale University)

When a small restaurant called Chez Panisse opened its doors 50 years ago in Berkeley, California, it wasn’t obvious that it would change how Americans thought about eating. The first menu on Aug. 28, 1971, was pâté baked in pastry, duck with olives, a salad and an almond tart, served for a fixed price of US$3.95. There were too many waiters and not enough utensils.

But this seemingly quirky eatery’s food was more vivid and flavorful than that of French restaurants that were more elegant and expensive. Alice Waters, who founded and still runs Chez Panisse, didn’t invent gourmet food; as I write in my book “Ten Restaurants that Changed America,” her great innovation was to orient fine dining toward primary ingredients.

Today, Americans value local, seasonal and artisanal products on restaurant menus and at the market. The importance of starting with good-quality ingredients seems so obvious that it’s hard to understand why this was an alien idea 50 years ago.

Alice Waters looks over rows of vegetables.
Alice Waters, executive chef and owner of Chez Panisse, at a farmers market in 2009. AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Beyond French cuisine

Despite some grumbling about tasteless tomatoes, restaurant diners and shoppers in the 1970s cared primarily about low prices and the availability of a variety of products regardless of season. Where food came from and even what it tasted like were less important.

In 1970, the food writer Mimi Sheraton commented, “You can’t buy an unwaxed cucumber in this country … we buy over-tenderized meat and frozen chicken … food is marketed and grown for the purpose of appearances.”

At that time, high-end dining was still defined, as it had been for 300 years, by France. There, basic products such as chickens from Bresse, oysters from Belon or saffron from Quercy were exemplary and sought-after. Elsewhere, imitators were more preoccupied with sauces, technique and fashion than with what actually went into their dishes.

Even if chefs wanted better raw materials, the industrialization of U.S. agriculture and livestock production made them difficult or impossible to find. “Dining at the Pavillon,” a 1962 book about New York’s Le Pavillon, quoted its notoriously arrogant owner, Henri Soulé, ruefully observing that he was unable to obtain things that the ordinary French shopper took for granted: young partridges, primeurs (early spring vegetables), Mediterranean fish like red mullet or rascasse and properly aged cheeses. In the United States, alas, “Everything is fresh all year round and is never quite fresh, if you see what I mean.”

Waters firmly believed that a restaurant could be no better than the ingredients it had to work with. But she struggled to find high-quality foods. Produce was the hardest, and attempts to create a farm run by the restaurant failed. Besides a few Chinese and Japanese markets, the restaurant had to depend on urban gardeners and foragers who knew where to find wild mushrooms and watercress. In 1989, Waters still found it challenging to obtain good butter, olives or prosciutto.

Chez Panisse’s menus were carefully faithful to French models in its early years. Then, between 1977 and 1983, the restaurant gradually shifted to what would become its focus: “California” or “New American” cuisine. Beef bourguignon and duck with olives were out; spicy crab pizza and warm goat cheese salad were in. As farmers and foragers realized there was a market for seasonal local products, they started producing for it – laying the foundation for today’s farm-to-table movement.

Cathy Pavlos, chef-owner of the restaurant Provenance in Newport Beach, California, explains what California cuisine is and how it has evolved since Alice Waters helped launch the movement in the 1970s.

Driving a food movement

Many other California restaurants and chefs helped catalyze this revolutionary turn to local ingredients and an eclectic aesthetic. Chez Panisse alumni Mark Miller and Judy Rodgers went on to found new restaurants that explored beyond the modified Mediterranean aesthetic that inspired Waters. Another Chez Panisse veteran, Jeremiah Tower, created a more aggressively elegant cuisine at his San Francisco restaurant Stars.

But food historians acknowledge Alice Waters’ innovation, persistence and dedication. Joyce Goldstein commented in her 2013 book “Inside the California Food Revolution”: “I did not set out to write an encomium to Alice, but I’ve got to hand it to her, she drove the train of the ingredients revolution.”

Waters asserted from the start that food from a more local, small-scale agricultural system wouldn’t just taste better – it also would improve lives and human relations. She has been an activist for causes ranging from school food to sustainability to climate change – always drawing connections between better-tasting food and social and environmental healing.

And she has pushed back against skeptics who say that eating locally and organically is affordable only for a small elite. Her response is that access to affordable, decent food from sustainable sources should not depend on wealth or social privilege, any more than decent medical care should be available only to the affluent.

The Edible Schoolyard, a project Alice Waters founded in 1995 at a Berkeley public middle school, uses organic school gardens, kitchens and cafeterias to teach students about food and nature.

Chez Panisse has been startlingly consistent over its 50-year span. It is at the same address, and the menu is still limited on any given day but changes constantly. The focus on using only the best ingredients is as intense as ever. The meals I’ve eaten there, most recently in 2016, have all been marvelous.

Staying on track in a changing industry

As recent events have shown, restaurants aren’t utopias, however starry their aspirations. In 2017 and 2018 the industry was rocked by the #MeToo movement, which exposed abusive chefs and substandard wages at top-ranked organizations. Restaurants have also faced criticism for wasting food and perpetuating racial and economic inequality.

Restaurants are a historical cultural phenomenon rooted in bourgeois ambition. Expecting them to advance social justice may seem as naïve as expecting collective decision-making in a high-pressure food service environment where the ingrained response to whatever the boss says is “Yes, Chef.”

The nature of culinary celebrity is clearly changing. Against this background, the constancy of Alice Waters and Chez Panisse is all the more impressive. Few restaurants get to celebrate 50 years of service, let alone a half-century combining seriousness of social purpose, loose organizational hierarchy and, above all, simple and delightful food.

Paul Freedman, Chester D. Tripp Professor of History, Yale University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Lax pesticide policies are putting wildlife health at risk, experts warn

Read the full story in Audubon Magazine.

Scientists and advocates say neonicotinoids—shown to harm bees, birds, and other wildlife—need tougher regulation. The U.S. EPA has a key window to take action in the next year.

Western officials reckon with reliability challenges as heat and ‘wildcard’ wildfire threaten grid

Read the full story at Utility Dive.

Regulators will have to figure out which resources can be brought online ‘that can really take us off the edge,’ the head of the California Independent System Operator said.

Salmon going nuts at a fish farm possibly high on cocaine, officials say

Read the full story at Motherboard.

Salmon frantically jumping around on a fish farm in Germany may have been on cocaine, according to a report released by German environmental officials. 

Officials from the State Environmental Agency of North Rhine-Westphalia (also known as Lanuv) noticed the strange and erratic behavior from the Atlantic Salmon in June of 2020 while overseeing a species conservation project. 

Walmart’s Flipkart cuts single-use plastic packaging from supply chain, shifts sustainability focus to sellers

Read the full story at Supply Chain Dive.

Flipkart has eliminated single-use plastic packaging in its fulfillment centers in India, the Walmart-owned e-commerce platform announced last week. It reached its goal while grappling with a surge in online retail demand.

The company achieved this by implementing sustainable alternatives, such as recycled paper bags to replace polythene pouches and swapping shredded carton waste in place of bubble wrap.

Flipkart is now shifting its focus to reducing single-use plastic packaging among its seller partners who fulfill orders directly from their own locations, Hemant Badri, senior vice president and head of supply chain, said in a statement.

EPR in the US can’t directly follow the European model; it must avoid a producer monopoly

Read the full story at Waste Dive.

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s Neil Seldman responds to an Ellen MacArthur Foundation statement describing EPR as “a necessary part of the solution to packaging waste and pollution.”