Fire danger in the high mountains is intensifying: That’s bad news for humans, treacherous for the environment

Fires are increasing in high mountain areas that rarely burned in the past. John McColgan, Bureau of Land Management, Alaska Fire Service

by Mohammad Reza Alizadeh, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Mojtaba Sadegh, Boise State University

As wildfire risk rises in the West, wildland firefighters and officials are keeping a closer eye on the high mountains – regions once considered too wet to burn.

The growing fire risk in these areas became startling clear in 2020, when Colorado’s East Troublesome Fire burned up and over the Continental Divide to become the state’s second-largest fire on record. The following year, California’s Dixie Fire became the first on record to burn across the Sierra Nevada’s crest and start down the other side.

We study wildfire behavior as climate scientists and engineers. In a new study, we show that fire risk has intensified in every region across the West over the past four decades, but the sharpest upward trends are in the high elevations.

Fire burns in the mountains above a building and ranch fence.
In 2020, Colorado’s East Troublesome fire jumped the Continental Divide. AP Photo/David Zalubowski

High mountain fires can create a cascade of risks for local ecosystems and for millions of people living farther down the mountains.

Since cooler, wetter high mountain landscapes rarely burn, vegetation and dead wood can build up, so highland fires tend to be intense and uncontrollable. They can affect everything from water quality and the timing of meltwater that communities and farmers rely on, to erosion that can bring debris and mud flows. Ultimately, they can change the hydrology, ecology and geomorphology of the highlands, with complex feedback loops that can transform mountain landscapes and endanger human safety.

Four decades of rising fire risk

Historically, higher moisture levels and cooler temperatures created a flammability barrier in the highlands. This enabled fire managers to leave fires that move away from human settlements and up mountains to run their course without interference. Fire would hit the flammability barrier and burn out.

However, our findings show that’s no longer reliable as the climate warms.

We analyzed fire danger trends in different elevation bands of the Western U.S. mountains from 1979 to 2020. Fire danger describes conditions that reflect the potential for a fire to ignite and spread.

Over that 42-year period, rising temperatures and drying trends increased the number of critical fire danger days in every region in the U.S. West. But in the highlands, certain environmental processes, such as earlier snowmelt that allowed the earth to heat up and become drier, intensified the fire danger faster than anywhere else. It was particularly stark in high-elevation forests from about 8,200 to 9,800 feet (2,500-3,000 meters) in elevation, just above the elevation of Aspen, Colorado.

Chart showing changing wildfire risks in the high mountains
Mohammad Reza Alizadeh, CC BY

We found that the high-elevation band had gained on average 63 critical fire danger days a year by 2020 compared with 1979. That included 22 days outside the traditional warm season of May to September. In previous research, we found that high-elevation fires had been advancing upslope in the West at about 25 feet (7.6 meters) per year.

Cascading risks for humans downstream

Mountains are water towers of the world, providing 70% of the runoff that cities across the West rely on. They support millions of people who live downstream.

High-elevation fires can have a significant impact on snow accumulation and meltwater, even long after they have burned out.

For example, fires remove vegetation cover and tree canopies, which can shorten the amount of time the snowpack stays frozen before melting. Soot from fires also darkens the snow surface, increasing its ability to absorb the Sun’s energy, which facilitates melting. Similarly, darkened land surface increases the absorption of solar radiation and heightens soil temperature after fires.

The result of these changes can be spring flooding, and less water later in the summer when communities downstream are counting on it.

Fire-driven tree loss also removes anchor points for the snowpack, increasing the frequency and severity of avalanches.

A burned area on a mountain ridge with a large reservoir far below.
Wildfire burn scars can have many effects on the water quality and quantity reaching communities below. George Rose/Getty Images

Frequent fires in high-elevation areas can also have a significant impact on the sediment dynamics of mountain streams. The loss of tree canopy means rainfall hits the ground at a higher velocity, increasing the potential for erosion. This can trigger mudslides and increase the amount of sediment sent downstream, which in turn can affect water quality and aquatic habitats.

Erosion linked to runoff after fire damage can also deepen streams to the point that excess water from storms can’t spread in high-elevation meadows and recharge the groundwater; instead, they route the water quickly downstream and cause flooding.

Hazards for climate-stressed species and ecosystems

The highlands generally have long fire return intervals, burning once every several decades if not centuries. Since they don’t burn often, their ecosystems aren’t as fire-adapted as lower-elevation forests, so they may not recover as efficiently or survive repeated fires.

Studies show that more frequent fires could change the type of trees that grow in the highlands or even convert them to shrubs or grasses.

A team of pack mules carries supplies up a high mountain in Glacier National Park. Some of the trees have burned, even at this high elevation.
High-elevation tree species like whitebark pines face an increasing risk of blister rust infections and mountain pine beetle infestations that can kill trees, creating more fuel for fires. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Wet mountain areas, with their cooler temperatures and higher precipitation, are often peppered with hot spots of biodiversity and provide refuges to various species from the warming climate. If these areas lose their tree canopies, species with small ranges that depend on cold-water mountain streams can face existential risks as more energy from the Sun heats up stream water in the absence of tree shading.

While the risk is rising fastest in the high mountains, most of the West is now at increasing risk of fires. With continuing greenhouse gas emissions fueling global warming, this trend of worsening fire danger is expected to intensify further, straining firefighting resources as crews battle more blazes.

Mohammad Reza Alizadeh, Postdoctoral Researcher in Environmental Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Mojtaba Sadegh, Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering, Boise State University

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

Bloom 23 and the growing business of biodiversity

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Welcome to the intersecting worlds of business and biodiversity, where nature truly meets the bottom line. Although it’s still early days, there’s a fast-mounting wave of interest and activity in addressing how companies contribute to species loss and habitat degradation and destruction, as well as the growing efforts to turn that around.

Satellite monitoring helps utilities manage risk, boost biodiversity

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

AiDash is working with utility companies to help them turn their land from a hazard into a carbon sink and biodiversity hub.

More bison herds to be restored to Native American lands

Read the full story from Oregon Live.

U.S. officials will work to restore more large bison herds to Native American lands under a Friday order from Interior Secretary Deb Haaland that calls for the government to tap into Indigenous knowledge in its efforts to conserve the burly animals that are an icon of the American West.

Haaland also announced $25 million in federal spending for bison conservation. The money, from last year’s climate bill, will build new herds, transfer more bison from federal to tribal lands and forge new bison management agreements with tribes, officials said.

Wolf restoration in Colorado shows how humans are rethinking their relationships with wild animals

A gray wolf in Yellowstone National Park. NPS/Jim Peaco

by Christopher J. Preston, University of Montana

From sports to pop culture, there are few themes more appealing than a good comeback. They happen in nature, too. Even with the Earth losing species at a historic rate, some animals have defied the trend toward extinction and started refilling their old ecological niches.

I’m a philosopher based in Montana and specialize in environmental ethics. For my new book, “Tenacious Beasts: Wildlife Recoveries That Change How We Think About Animals,” I spent three years looking at wildlife comebacks across North America and Europe and considering the lessons they offer. In every case, whether the returnee is a bison, humpback whale, beaver, salmon, sea otter or wolf, the recovery has created an opportunity for humans to profoundly rethink how we live with these animals.

One place to see the rethink in action is Colorado, where voters approved a ballot measure in 2020 mandating the reintroduction of gray wolves west of the Continental Divide. Colorado’s Parks and Wildlife Agency has released a draft plan that calls for moving 30 to 50 gray wolves from other Rocky Mountain states into northwest Colorado over five years, starting in 2024.

Aldo Leopold, the famed conservationist and professor of game management at the University of Wisconsin, believed that moral beliefs evolve over time to become more inclusive of the natural world. And what’s happening in Colorado suggests Leopold was right. Human attitudes toward wolves have clearly evolved since the mid-1940s, when bounties, mass poisoning and trapping eradicated wolves from the state.

Recovering animals encounter a world that is markedly different from the one in which they declined, especially in terms of how people think about wildlife. Here are several reasons I see why societal attitudes toward wolves have changed.

Wolves released in northwest Colorado will wear GPS collars that enable wildlife managers to track them.

The importance of keystone species

The idea that certain influential species, which ecologists call keystone species, can significantly alter the ecosystems around them first appeared in scientific literature in 1974. Bison, sea otters, beavers, elephants and wolves all exert this power. One way in which wolves wield influence is by preying on coyotes, which produces ripple effects across the system. Fewer coyotes means more rodents, which in turn means better hunting success for birds of prey.

Wolves also cause nervous behaviors among their prey. Some scientists believe that newly returned predators create a “landscape of fear” among prey species – a term that isn’t positive or negative, just descriptive. This idea has shifted thinking about predators. For example, elk avoid some areas when wolves are around, resulting in ecological changes that cascade down from the top. Vegetation can recover, which in turn may benefit other species.

Insights into pack dynamics

Animal behavioral science research has provided pointers for better wolf management. Studies show that wolf packs are less likely to prey on livestock if their social structure remains intact. This means that ranchers and wildlife managers should take care not to remove the pack’s breeding pair when problems occur. Doing so can fragment the pack and send dispersing wolves into new territories.

Wildlife agencies also have access to years of data from close observation of wolf behavior in places like Yellowstone National Park, where wolves were reintroduced starting in 1995. This research offers insights into the wolf’s intelligence and social complexity. All of this information helps to show how people can live successfully alongside them.

Predators provide economic value

Research has also demonstrated that wolves provide economic benefits to states and communities. Wisconsin researchers discovered that changes in deer behavior due to the presence of wolves have saved millions of dollars in avoided deer collisions with cars. These savings far exceed what it costs the state to manage wolves.

Wolf recovery has been shown to be a net economic benefit in areas of the U.S. West where they have returned. The dollars they attract from wolf-watchers, photographers and foreign visitors have provided a valuable new income stream in many communities.

Predators do kill livestock, but improved tracking has helped to put these losses in perspective. Montana Board of Livestock numbers show that wolves, grizzly bears and mountain lions caused the loss of 131 cattle and 137 sheep in the state in 2022. This is from a total of 2,200,000 cattle and 190,000 sheep. Of the 131 cattle, 36 were confirmed to be taken by wolves – 0.0016% of the statewide herd.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, dogs, foxes and coyotes in Montana all killed more sheep and lambs than wolves did in 2020. Even eagles were three times more deadly to sheep and lambs than wolves were.

Actual costs to ranchers are certainly higher than these numbers suggest. The presence of wolves causes livestock to lose weight because the animals feed more nervously when wolves are around. Ranchers also lose sleep as they worry about wolves attacking their livestock and guard dogs. And clearly, low statewide kills are small comfort to a rancher who loses a dozen or more animals in one year. Margins are always tight in the livestock business.

A northern Colorado rancher discusses options for protecting his cattle from wolves, which already are naturally present in the state.

What’s more, predators’ economic impacts don’t end with ranching. In Colorado, for example, elk numbers are likely to decline after wolves are reintroduced. This may affect state wildlife agency budgets that rely on license fees from elk hunters. It may also affect hunting outfitters’ incomes.

In my view, voters who supported bringing wolves back to Colorado should remain deeply aware of the full distribution of costs and support proactive compensation schemes for losses. They should be mindful that support for wolf reintroduction varies drastically between urban and rural communities and should insist that effective mechanisms are in place ahead of time to ensure fair sharing of the economic burdens that wolves generate.

A new ethical playing field

Despite these complexities, the idea of the “big bad wolf” clearly no longer dominates Americans’ thinking. And the wolf is not alone. Social acceptance of many other wildlife species is also increasing. For example, a 2023 study found that between 80% and 90% of Montanans believed grizzly bears – which are recovering and expanding their presence there – have a right to exist.

Aldo Leopold famously claimed to have experienced an epiphany when he shot a wolf in New Mexico in the 1920s and saw “a fierce green fire” dying in her eyes. In reality, his attitude took several more decades to change. Humans may have an ingrained evolutionary disposition to fear carnivorous predators like wolves, but the change ended up being real for Leopold, and it lasted.

Leopold, who died in 1948, did not live to see many wildlife species recover, but I believe he would have regarded what’s happening now as an opportunity for Americans’ moral growth. Because Leopold knew that ethics, like animals, are always evolving.

Christopher J. Preston, Professor of Philosophy, University of Montana

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

Urban gardens are good for ecosystems and humans

Read the full story from the University of Texas.

Traditionally, it has been assumed that cultivating food leads to a loss of biodiversity and negative impacts on an ecosystem. A new study defies this assumption, showing that community gardens and urban farms positively affect biodiversity, local ecosystems and the well-being of humans that work in them.

Clever orchard design for more nuts

Read the full story from the University of Göttingen.

To reduce biodiversity loss in agricultural landscapes, more sustainable and environmentally friendly agricultural practices are needed. A research team has investigated how ecosystem services such as pollination could be improved in macadamia plantations. The scientists showed that a certain design of plantations — for instance, how the rows of trees are arranged, the varieties, and the integration of semi-natural habitats in and around the plantations — can increase the pollination performance of bees.

Chickadees, titmice and nuthatches flocking together benefit from a diversity bonus – so do other animals, including humans

More watchful eyes can mean more safety for all. Georgette Douwma/Stone via Getty Images

by Todd M. Freeberg, University of Tennessee

Carolina chickadees are small, boisterous year-round residents of the southeastern United States. They are regularly found with much larger tufted titmice, white-breasted nuthatches and various woodpecker species.

In these mixed flocks, chickadees are almost always the subordinate individuals, outcompeted by their larger flockmates. Why, then, do chickadees regularly join these flocks? Might they have a symbiotic relationship with other species in these flocks?

I study animal behavior and am especially interested in testing how diverse groups of animals sometimes outperform uniform groups made up of a single species.

One potential explanation for why chickadees – or any species, for that matter – might join a mixed-species group is that such groups may possess a wider variety of cognitive tools, resulting in increased creativity and innovation for the group as a whole.

More is more

One of the first experiments to demonstrate the benefits of diversity involved honeybees and their ability to maintain optimal hive temperature, which is crucial to egg and larval development.

Scientists manipulated the surrounding temperature of bee colonies that varied in their genetic relatedness. Some colonies had only a single male that mated with the queen, while others had multiple males that mated with the queen. The more genetically diverse colonies were better at maintaining hive temperatures than the genetically alike colonies.

The benefits of diversity within a species appear to extend to mixed-species groups as well.

Scientists have shown that Caribbean zenaida doves benefit by being in groups with Carib grackles, a species of blackbird. Zenaida doves do not have alarm calls of their own but respond to the alarm calls of grackles with increased vigilance. Carib grackles, in turn, may gain foraging benefits from interactions with zenaida doves by copying their foraging behavior and movements.

Similarly, Diana monkeys and Campbell’s monkeys in Côte d’Ivoire regularly join up in mixed-species groups. When this occurs, both species are freed up by the greater number of eyes and ears scanning for trouble, enabling them to focus on other tasks. Diana monkeys forage more in mixed-species groups than when they are alone and Campbell’s monkeys move and call more than when they are alone.

Two different birds at either end of a flat wooden platform with seeds on it situated in the woods.
Tufted titmouse, left, and white-breasted nuthatch eat from our platform feeder. Todd M. Freeberg, CC BY-ND

Birds of different feathers also flock together

My colleagues and I found similar results in our research on Carolina chickadees. These birds are often found in flocks with tufted titmice and white-breasted nuthatches, as well as a handful of other occasional species. We have been studying these flocks for two decades using simple platform feeders as a starting point. Once we found that a flock was using our platform feeder, we cleared the seeds and put them in a hopper-style feeder the birds had never seen before.

A bird eats a seed from a rectangular box shaped feeder with a slanted roof and feeding troughs.
A Carolina chickadee enjoys food from an unfamiliar feeder. Todd M. Freeberg, CC BY-ND

We found chickadees in flocks with titmice and nuthatches were more likely to figure out the feeder than chickadees in less diverse flocks. Titmice in diverse flocks were also more likely to solve the task than titmice in less diverse flocks. It’s possible, with more eyes and ears to perceive potential threats, individuals can spend less time patrolling for predators and more time problem-solving.

Other research on flocks of chickadees, titmice and nuthatches has supported this idea. When a predator is detected by these birds, they actively mob it in an effort to drive it from the area. Titmice tend to hang back and let the chickadees and nuthatches do the majority of the work, however, so it seems likely that titmice, in particular, benefit from the defensive behavior of the other two species in these flocks. Ongoing work is trying to determine whether titmice are freeloaders in these flocks – or if they are providing anti-predator or food-finding benefits.

Human diversity

The benefits-of-diversity idea has also been studied in people. Multiple experiments reveal that not only do groups make better decisions than individuals, more-diverse groups make better decisions than less-diverse groups.

In an experimental study of simulated marketplace decisions, teams of diverse individuals were better able to judge the true market value of commodities than homogeneous teams, in both southeast Asian and North American populations. In another study, juries of diverse individuals weighed relevant evidence more carefully and deliberated more effectively than homogeneous juries. Similar benefits of diversity are regularly observed in business and educational settings.

Scientists increasingly know there is strength in diversity – not just for bees and birds but for our own species, as well.

Todd M. Freeberg, Professor and Associate Head of Psychology, University of Tennessee

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

Noah’s Ark in a Warming World: Climate Change, Biodiversity Loss, and Public Adaptation Costs in the United States

Frances C. Moore, Arianna Stokes, Marc N. Conte, and Xiaoli Dong (2022). “Noah’s Ark in a Warming World: Climate Change, Biodiversity Loss, and Public Adaptation Costs in the United States.” Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists 9(5), 981-1015. DOI: [open access]

Abstract: Climate change poses a growing threat to biodiversity, but the welfare consequences of these changes are not well understood. Here we analyze data on the US Endangered Species Act and project increases in species listing and spending due to climate change. We show that higher endangerment is strongly associated with the probability of listing but also find a large bias toward vertebrate species for both listing and spending. Unmitigated warming would cause the listing of an additional 690 species and committed spending of $21 billion by 2100. Several thousand more species would be critically imperiled by climate change but remain unlisted. Finally, we compare ESA spending with estimates of willingness to pay for conservation of 36 listed species. Aggregate WTP is larger than ESA spending for the vast majority of species even using conservative assumptions and typically one to two orders of magnitude larger than direct ESA spending using less restrictive assumptions. Dataverse data:

Protecting 30% of Earth’s surface for nature means thinking about connections near and far

Red knots stop to feed along the Delaware shore as they migrate from the high Arctic to South America. Gregory Breese, USFWS/Flickr

by Veronica Frans, Michigan State University and Jianguo “Jack” Liu, Michigan State University

A biodiversity crisis is reducing the variety of life on Earth. Under pressure from land and water pollution, development, overhunting, poaching, climate change and species invasions, approximately 1 million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction.

One ambitious proposal for stemming these losses is the international initiative known as 30×30: conserving and protecting at least 30% of Earth’s surface, on land and at sea, by 2030.

Currently, 112 countries support this initiative, including the United States. More nations may announce their support at the international biodiversity conference that opens Dec. 7, 2022, in Montreal.

Scientists say that protecting 30% of Earth’s surface will help species and ecosystems recover from the stresses that are depleting them. It also will conserve valuable services that nature provides to humans, such as buffering coasts from storms and filtering drinking water. Protecting forests and grasslands can help slow climate change by promoting carbon storage in soil and plants.

As researchers in ecology, conservation and global sustainability, we study biodiversity around the world, from giant pandas deep in the forests of China to sea lions along the shorelines of New Zealand. Saving a wide variety of living things requires striking a balance between the needs of nature and people, and a global, holistic perspective. We believe a metacoupling approach, which looks at human-nature interactions within and across different areas, can help achieve the 30×30 goal.

What is a protected area?

Since 30×30 focuses on protecting space for wild nature, many people assume it means setting swaths of land or ocean aside and keeping people out of them. But that’s not always true.

As of mid-2021, 16.64% of the world’s land and 7.74% of its oceans were in protected areas. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature, a partnership of governments and civil society groups that tracks the health of the natural world, classifies protected areas in six categories:

  • Strict nature reserve or wilderness area
  • National park
  • Natural monument or feature
  • Habitat or species management area
  • Protected landscape or seascape
  • Protected area with sustainable use of natural resources

Many countries’ 30×30 conservation pledges are likely to include areas such as forests and grasslands that are open for recreation, logging, livestock grazing and other uses.

Cows graze on a lush field surrounded by evergreen trees
Cattle grazing at Kaiser Meadows in California’s Sierra National Forest. Lawrence K. Ho/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Few intact ecosystems remain

Scientists agree that protected areas need to include a large variety of species, ecosystems and habitats that the 30×30 initiative aims to conserve. There are many ways to choose and prioritize new areas for protection. Criteria can include the species, habitats and ecosystems that an area contains; its connections to other protected areas; how large and intact an area is; and the benefits it provides to people who live in, near and far from it.

Some scientists contend that the top priorities should be places that are still ecologically intact and virtually untouched by humans. But only about 3% of the Earth’s land and oceans are still in this state. And even wilderness areas can’t escape the effects of climate change caused by human activities elsewhere.

Over 58% of our planet’s land and 41% of its oceans are already under moderate to intense human pressure. This means that most newly protected areas will effectively be works in progress, with restoration projects to help species recover, improve habitat quality and make ecosystems healthier.

Ryan Davis, Pennsylvania forest program manager with the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, explains options for stabilizing stream banks that have become badly eroded.

Another 40% of land and 10% of oceans have experienced relatively low impacts from human activities. Terrestrial ecosystems with the lowest human footprints include tundra, boreal forests and deserts. At the other extreme, tropical, subtropical and temperate forests are at the highest risk.

In the oceans, areas with the lowest human pressures are near the poles or in polar regions. Coral ecosystems, which are home to 25% of all marine life, are under the most pressure.

It isn’t always possible to protect large areas. Some scientists argue that small areas can still successfully protect species, but others disagree. In our view, what ultimately matters is how multiple protected areas are connected and how close they are to each other.

Connections can develop naturally, like the flyways that migrating birds use to travel between continents. Or they can be structures built by humans, such as wildlife bridges over highways. Connecting protected areas is important because it promotes genetic diversity and makes it possible for species to move in response to climate change and other threats.

A bridge planted with grasses over a four-lane highway
Wildlife crossings, like this vegetated bridge over a highway in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, can connect protected land and help wildlife move across large areas. Sven-Erik Arndt/Arterra/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The metacoupling approach

Given all these factors, selecting protected areas can get complicated. Based on our research, we think that a holistic approach can make 30×30 feasible and effective. It has three parts.

First, protected areas should meet both conservation needs and human needs. Second, in creating newly protected areas, researchers and managers should consider how they will interact with adjacent areas. Third, researchers and officials should assess how newly protected areas will interact with areas far away – including in other countries.

This approach is guided by the metacoupling framework, which is an integrated way to study and manage human-nature interactions within and between different places. It recognizes that human and natural systems in a given place can be affected for better or worse by people, policies and markets both nearby and far away.

At Wolong Nature Reserve in southwestern China, one of us, Jack Liu, has worked with Chinese collaborators to understand and manage human-nature interactions in ways that support the recovery of a global wildlife icon – giant pandas. Wolong, which is now part of China’s Giant Panda National Park, was one of the first and largest panda reserves in China, and also houses numerous other rare animals and plants. It is also home to almost 6,000 people.

Two people converse in a small market.
Ecologist Jianguo ‘Jack’ Liu, left, speaks with a resident in Wolong, China, about pressures on panda habitat. Michigan State University, CC BY-ND

Forest is an important part of panda habitat, but over time the human population in Wolong grew and needed more resources, such as wood for cooking and heating or to make goods for visiting tourists. In a 2001 study, our team showed that panda habitat in Wolong declined faster after the reserve was established in 1975 than it had before that time. Increasing demand for wood was degrading and fragmenting the forest and negatively affected panda population numbers.

To reverse this trend, our team worked with the Chinese government to provide more financial support to the local community in the early 2000s. This increased household incomes and reduced the need to harvest wood.

Taking a broad geographic view of the pandas’ situation helped to produce a positive outcome. Recognizing that panda habitat was being affected not just by human-nature interactions inside Wolong but also by interactions between Wolong and adjacent and distant places showed that conservation subsidies from the faraway central government in Beijing could improve protection for Wolong forests.

In 2016 the International Union for Conservation of Nature downlisted and reclassified giant pandas from endangered to vulnerable. Today there are an estimated 1,800 giant pandas in the wild, thanks partly to government subsidies that helped strike a balance between humans’ needs and those of pandas.

All protected areas are influenced by human actions both nearby and far away. We believe that creating and managing protected areas using a holistic metacoupling approach will make it easier to achieve the 30×30 goal and make sound decisions that sustain nature and human well-being around the world.

Veronica Frans, PhD Student in Fisheries & Wildlife and Ecology, Evolutionary Biology & Behavior, Michigan State University and Jianguo “Jack” Liu, Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability, Michigan State University

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