Exploring outdoors and engaging in recreational activities in nature has been proven to have a very positive impact on overall wellness, physical and mental health.

However, a recent study led by Colorado State University revealed that 93 percent of the 275 articles reviewed documented at least one effect of recreation activities on wildlife, 59 percent of which are negative.

Authors of the study grouped recreational activities into categories namely aquatic, summer terrestrial and winter terrestrial activities, and found that among the 18 recreational activities that fall under the three major categories, winter terrestrial activities have a greater effect on wildlife.

The researchers also compared the data on the effects of non-motorized to motorized activities and surprisingly, it was found that the non-motorized activities such as hiking had a more negative impact on wildlife more often compared to motorized activities. For example, four of the researches they studied showed that four mammals (coyote, wolverine, guanaco and bobcat) expressed behavioral responses to non-motorized activities such as hiking, but not to motorized activities. However, it should be noted that motorized activities also have negative impacts on wildlife such as soil loss and disturbance on vegetation.

Generally, despite the differences in foci, taxonomy and geographical distribution of the different studies that the authors reviewed made it difficult to give a specific answer as to exactly how the wildlife is disturbed by human recreational activities, what is conclusive is that such activities illicit more negative than positive impacts on wildlife, at least on an individual-level.

As of 2014, there are approximately 200,000 protected areas worldwide, covering 14.6 percent of the world's land and around 2.8 percent of the ocean. In the United States alone, participants of outdoor recreational activities in protected areas increased by 7.5 percent and visitor days increased by 32.5 percent in the years between 2000 and 2009 as a part of both local and international tourism programs. Preserved areas provide a wide range of benefits not just to nature and wildlife but also to communities worldwide, benefiting current and future generations.

Ideally, conservation and outdoor recreation should go hand in hand but as the authors pointed out, it is unclear exactly to what extent preserved area managers are receiving and adopting conservation recommendations even when backed by scientific literature. That said, the study sheds a light on the lack of responsiveness given to proper conservation in preserved areas and the complication that comes along with balancing wildlife conservation and recreation.

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