Changing Human Behavior to Minimize/Mitigate Disturbance

One major aspect of changing human behavior to minimize and mitigate disturbance is through education and awareness. In the case of invasive species, informing people about the consequences of transporting plants and animals to new places will mitigate the spread of invasive species. For fire disturbance, educating people on the dangers of fire suppression as well as how fires benefit an ecosystem may influence greater acceptance and better management. Grazing can be better managed by the knowledge and use of Grazing Systems. Governmental policy is also effective in changing societal behavior, for example a carbon tax can minimize the human impact on climate change by limiting emissions. In order to change individual human worldviews, educated discussion and supported facts go a long way to convince people to consider ideas that they haven’t before.

The Human Footprint is an important factor influencing management methods. Disturbance is greatly impacted by human urbanization, and can be better managed if we understand the relationship between human activity and the effects of disturbance on different ecosystems. Research on the Human Footprint helps to minimize and mitigate disturbance, and has developed as “humans have dramatically altered wildlands in the western United States over the past 100 years by using these lands and the resources they provide. Anthropogenic changes to the landscape, such as urban expansion and development of rural areas, influence the number and kinds of plants and wildlife that remain. In addition, western ecosystems are also affected by roads, powerlines, and other networks and land uses necessary to maintain human populations. The cumulative impacts of human presence and actions on a landscape are called the “human footprint.” These impacts may affect plants and wildlife by increasing the number of synanthropic (species that benefit from human activities) bird and mammal predators and facilitating their movements through the landscape or by creating unsuitable habitats. These actions can impact plants and wildlife to such an extent that the persistence of populations or entire species is questionable…The human footprint aids managers in planning, implementing land-use actions, and developing strategies to conserve habitats and wildlife. Modeling the human footprint across large landscapes also allows researchers to generate hypotheses about ecosystem change and to conduct studies in regions differing in potential impact. Because funding for restoration and conservation projects is limited, and because there is little room for errors in the management of species of concern, land managers are able to maximize restoration and conservation efforts in areas minimally influenced by the human footprint. As such, the human footprint model is an important first step toward understanding the synergistic effects acting on shrublands in the western United States.” (USGS). The Human Footprint measures the negative or positive changes that humans have made to a landscape. It includes factors of urbanization, recreation, Energy development, and climate change. All of these things are valuable or inevitable, but educated management can help make these things sustainable. Considering the areas least impacted by the human footprint allows managers to consider what ecosystem is worth the time, money, and effort to repair and research.

USGS. The Human Footprint in the West: A Large-scale Analysis of Human Impacts. US Department of the Interior. December 2003.

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