In the summer, millions of people are drawn to the great outdoors by nature’s pull to interact with fresh air and wildlife.

Natural variety is indicative of the biodiversity of small and large ecosystems. Every field, forest and stream is an ecosystem teeming with bacteria, insects, animals, plants and more. When we enjoy these ecosystems for our own recreation, we can contribute positively to their health and resilience. Here are some tips for ways to preserve biodiversity as you go out into the wild.

  • Respectful Trail Use: Instead of trampling on protective vegetation, stay on designated trails and use designated campsites and firepits. When we go off trail, we can compact soils and contribute to an increase in water runoff and soil erosion. We also risk brushing up against dangerous and poisonous wild plants like poison ivy and sticking nettles. Stick to established paths and allow native plants and animals to thrive undisturbed.
  • Leave No Trace: Maybe you’ve heard the old saying “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints”? The author is unknown, but the U.S. National Park Service popularized this advice in the 1950s. Remove all trash and waste, especially biodegradable food or paper products, to help protect the purity of natural habitats. If you must use plastic trash bags, these GLAD compostable bags will fully decompose, just remember to still take them with you.
  • Harmony with Wildlife: Human activities such as noise, approaching wildlife too closely, or leaving behind food or pet waste can disrupt natural behaviors and stress animals, affecting their reproductive success and overall survival. Intentional and unintentional feeding of wildlife puts animals at risk by creating a dependency on humans for food, which in turn makes them more susceptible to predators. By respecting wildlife boundaries, we protect their vital role in the ecosystem.
  • Guarding Against Invasive Species: If you eat anything with seeds while out in the wild, be sure to contain it and take any leftovers back out with you. Seeds tossed into the wild may result in the growth of invasive species, and even native species like berries can be problematic to other naturally occurring plants. It’s best to avoid introducing anything foreign into an ecosystem. By being vigilant stewards of biodiversity, we help preserve the natural balance of native flora and fauna.
  • Wildfire: There are few things better than a campfire under the stars. However, in dry climates, fires can be risky and may be illegal, so it is essential to follow rules on this as the devastation of forest fires is too great and not worth it. Where fires are permitted and safe, be sure to follow two key rules. First, don’t chop down a tree for firewood as this will disrupt the local ecosystem, and the wood will be too green to easily burn. Second, extinguish your fire 100% before moving on from your campsite to avoid the risk of wildfire.
  • Share Knowledge: Promote responsible outdoor practices with your fellow enthusiasts. By spreading awareness about the importance of biodiversity conservation, we empower others to take responsibility for their interaction with nature, ensuring a brighter future for our planet’s ecosystems.

Biodiverse ecosystems are more resilient to environmental changes, such as climate fluctuations or disease outbreaks, so they’re better able to withstand disturbances and recover more quickly. By adopting responsible practices in our outdoor recreation, we actively contribute to the preservation of vital ecosystems and the beauty of nature. Remember, “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints.”