Nearby Nature Project: 2023 February

This month’s Nearby Nature Project post may be the last one with an extensive “Newsfeed” section. At least for a while. I’ve pretty much stopped going on Twitter. So I need to find another way to loosely monitor the latest research on nature connectedness. Got a recommendation on this front? Please drop a comment. Meanwhile, I’ll tune my newsfeed and look into an RSS feed to try to replicate what I used to get from Twitter.

Heads Up!

World Wildlife Day is coming up on March 7, 2023. Share photos/videos using the #WWD2023 #WorldWildlifeDay #WWD. The focus this year is on forging partnerships to support wildlife and biodiversity.


Contact with Nature ≠ Sense of Being Part of Nature

Research into the physical/emotion/mental-health benefits of shinrin-yoku started in the 1980s. Rooted in Shinto and Buddhist practices, forest bathing has been found to reduce stress, heart rate, breathing rate and to bring other health benefits. Many subsequent studies have confirmed that being in nature – even nearby nature like a city park – improves human well-being.

A lot of the research has been human oriented. In other words, how does contact with Nature benefit people? More recently, research has shifted to include what kinds of contact with Nature foster an actual connection with Nature – a shift in perspective so that people feel they are part of Nature. A deep sense of connectedness is essential to slowing, stopping and eventually reversing biodiversity loss.

This post on Miles Richardson’s Finding Nature blog is a plain language overview of a recent analysis of 832 research studies that looked into the differences between contact with Nature and Nature connectedness. And it explains why the distinction matters – especially to policy makers.

After reading the overview and underlying study, I’m spending time thinking about the phrase nature positive lifestyle. I figure there’s a continuum here. And the real question for me is, “How do I keep inching towards a more nature positive lifestyle?”.

Biodiversity Stripes

Speaking of Miles Richardson, did you know he’s the guy behind the biodiversity stripes that were front-and-center at COP-15? Read about how he developed the first set of biodiversity stripes here.

One Action You Can Take to Help Biodiversity

Shortly after COP-15, the Canadian Wildlife Federation published a short explainer on Canada’s opportunity to play a major role re: biodiversity, exactly what biodiversity is, and why it’s important. The article goes on to describe one action each of us can take to help on the biodiversity front. Contribute to citizen science!

Another Canadian Wildlife Federation article goes on to explain how adding observations to iNaturalist – whether through the website or the app – helps researchers accumulate sufficient information about plants and animals to help inform government policy.

I’ve mentioned iNaturalist before. Here’s a link to my observation dashboard. I plan to exit 2023 with at least 800 observations, covering more than 300 species. I’d also like to be more active in verifying others’ observations as time goes on. Please consider joining me in contribution to this important repository of biodiversity data. And if you’re already contribution to iNaturalist, thank you! and carry on!

The Board Chairperson’s Guide to Valuing Nature

Being a retired businessperson/former board director, Deloitte’s presentation at WEF23 caught my attention. You can watch the presentation, made in affiliation with the Climate Governance Initiative, here (on LinkedIn). To read (or at least skim) the white paper behind the presentation, visit the WEF website, here.

Unmanaged Trails Scrutinized

Is it any wonder hiking and biking trails are busier than ever? As word about the physical, mental and emotional benefits of outdoor recreation continues to spread, more people are out on the landscape, bringing economic benefits to the communities they visit.

But how often do we stop to consider the potential negative effects of outdoor recreation? Perhaps most often when there’s conflict, such as the polarized responses to Parks Canada’s recent announcement that the road to iconic Moraine Lake is now closed year-round to private vehicles. The 24/7 traffic monitoring over the summer of 2022 made it clear that status quo was not the way to go.

Just as data informed the Parks Canada decision, data is essential for planning, constructing, maintaining and otherwise managing recreational trails. To that end, Yellowstone-to-Yukon and the University of Northern British Columbia undertook a study of trails in southeastern BC and southwestern Alberta.

The key finding? Almost one-quarter (24% or 6,000 km) of recreational trails in the southern Canadian Rockies and Columbia Mountains are off the books. In other words, 24% of recreational trails are not included in provincial government and Canada Parks databases. Note also that at least some portion of undesignated (aka unofficial, pirate and/or rogue) trails are included in government datasets.

I noticed that data sources for the study didn’t include information from sites like AllTrails. I also noticed that the same day this study hit my news feed, that AllTrails marked the Grassi Knob trail here in Canmore as “indefinitely closed”. Coincidence? Or an indication that Alberta Parks is starting to use AllTrails and similar information as a way to help manage recreational trails in sensitive areas.

Side note – the Grassi Knob trail has always been “closed” because it’s an undesignated/rogue/pirate trail in a sensitive wildlife corridor. But since AllTrails is based on user-generated content, and Grassi Knob is a pretty easy, all-season hike (at least that’s my conclusion based on looking at the elevation gain/distance/photos posted to AllTrails), it appeared as such on AllTrails.

Why does any of this matter? It highlights a major information gap that hinders land/parks managers, planners and other parties from making evidence-based decisions regarding seasonal trail closures, effects on plants and wildlife, etc.

The study used a one-time manual and time-consuming process to overlay government and non-government data sets. I don’t see an automagical process for merging all of this data happening any time soon – especially not on an on-going basis. Which means for many recreationists, the decision about which trail to hit next weekend will continue to be based on Facebook and Instagram posts…at least for the near term. And perhaps unwittingly pressuring wildlife and damaging the landscape.

Cultivating My Nature Connection

We have a few big projects underway (solar panel installation and planning our first international trip since 2015), so I’ll be back next month with a review of the board game Wingspan.

Nearby Nature Project

We took part in the 26th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count. from February 17-20. Over four observation periods totaling about 3 hours, we recorded 12 different species. Here are some photographs from our backyard feeders and a walk in Griffith Woods.

On a related note, a recent exploratory study in the UK found that backyard birdwatching for joy (as opposed to keeping track of sightings for your annual count or life list) brings the greatest benefits in terms of physical and emotional well-being, especially when it comes to reducing anxiety.

Coming Up….

Remember, World Wildlife Day is on March 7. I’ve made a note in my calendar to keep a sharp eye out for urban wildlife that day. Maybe I’ll have another sighting of the bobcat that’s been wandering our west Calgary neighbourhood…

suburban bobcat

Also in March, I expect to start a few seeds for this year’s vegetable garden; possibly see a few early signs of spring; and get around to doing a review of Wingspan.

What will you be doing to cultivate your sense of connection to Nature?

One thought on “Nearby Nature Project: 2023 February

  1. Pingback: Nearby Nature Project: 2023 March - Out & About with the GeoKs

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