Enjoy the Spring Without Leaving Trace

Tiempo de lectura | Reading time: 11 minutos

By Mirna Borrego and Roberto Chino

Around February and March it’s normal to see that on the outskirts of the cities the slopes are painted in colors with the flowering of a great variety of species. The awakening of the wildflowers of previous years left us with great memories of colorful landscapes, and aroused in many people amazement and curiosity about the wild flora of our region.

In the last years we have had little rains, which makes us foresee that this season the flowering will not be as abundant as in previous seasons, as it happened in the 2019 super bloom. The spring time is approaching and nature is sometimes very unpredictable, the approaching rains may give us a very nice surprise. Meanwhile, get ready to enjoy nature, spring break is almost here and it’s during this season that we can leave an impact on nature.

We’ve prepared 5 tips so you can visit and enjoy nature without leaving trace:

  1. Stay inside the marked trails.
  2. Enjoy the flowers and other elements of nature, but don’t take them with you.
  3. Share your observations using the iNaturalist.org platform and contribute to citizen science.
  4. Join the collective cleaning of the spaces, leaving them better than they were.
  5. Don’t leave residues, remember that what you carry in your backpack goes back with you.
Photo by César Medina.

Tip #1 Stay on marked trails and watch your steps

When you explore a site following a trail, whether it is certified or not, you help reduce the impact caused by the presence of people in natural areas. Imagine the impact a place would have if every person who visited it walked and stepped anywhere.

But what is a trail and why should you follow it? A trail is a path that indicates a route to follow. There are trails that have been formed over time, for example in some rural areas where the inhabitants walk from one place to another.

These types of trails take time to form and are created by the impact of people walking. The footsteps usually damage the flora and the soil of that space, causing it to reduce, disappear or modify in some way, leaving a mark. This mark is the path that will form the trail.

Other trails are planned and created in a relatively short time following a preliminary study of the area where the trail will be created. These trails are known as homologated or certified trails

A certified trail is a route that is created following international beaconing or signaling criteria that indicates the path and also provides security, guidance and technical information that allows people to know much better the place they are exploring.

These types of trails can be found in places such as national parks or nature reserves, such as the interpretive trails in the Monte Ceniza Nature Reserve in San Quintín.

Photo by Alejandro Arias

Tip #2 Enjoy flowers and other elements of nature, but don’t take them with you

By taking something from a site, cutting down trees or even simply changing the position of some elements such as rocks, we alter the habitat. This can have a negative and sometimes quite significant impact for some species, for example pollinators.

Instead of taking the natural elements of the site you visit, be an example for others and take the trash and residues you find with you. A clean place is more beautiful to remember than a place full of garbage.

Species like bees, hummingbirds, butterflies, and even bats are pollinators. They feed on the nectar of flowers and when they land on one flower they accidentally carry pollen to another, allowing the plants to bear fruit. Imagine the impact it would have on flowers and pollinators if each person took a flower with them when visiting a place.

Most of us have experienced it. We visited a new place that we did not know before, we were amazed at how beautiful it was and it is inevitable to think of taking something with us  to help us remember that experience in the future.

Photo by Roberto Chino.

Many of us have thought things like “I’ll take this little stone or a flower” or when visiting places like the Sierra de San Pedro Mártir National Park we think of taking the pine nuts, but before doing so, stop for a moment and think, do I really need to take something to remember this place or experience?

Also consider that each of us comes from nature, depends on nature and each of us will return to nature. Respect it.

Make technology your ally. Remember that most of us carry a very good camera in our pockets, our smartphone. Instead of taking a flower, a rock, a shell or anything else, take a photo and carry it with you forever. It will cost you nothing and you will be helping to take care of the habitat.

And last but not least, enjoy the moment. Sometimes we worry so much about making the souvenir photograph come out perfect that we lose valuable time that we could use to admire the place, meditate and take a better memory, one that neither a camera, a flower nor any other object can give us, a great experience.

Tip #3 Upload your observations to the iNaturalist platform and contribute to citizen science

You don’t need to be an expert on a topic to contribute to science, your observations can help scientists learn more about biodiversity and develop research that promotes its conservation.

It is possible that someone is investigating a species that is not found in the area in which they live and factors such as the health emergency presented by COVID-19 makes it very difficult to travel. This is where contributions like yours can help science. When you share your observations, people from all around the world can consult them.

Not only will you be able to help others learn more about the species, you can also become part of an entire community and share additional information, help other people identify a species or learn from others about the species that interest you the most.

Do you know the name of the tree in your house or the plant that decorates your desk? Sharing your observations is an excellent opportunity to stop to explore and learn more about where you live and the species that surround you.

Photo by Roberto Chino.

Tip #4 Join the collective cleaning of the spaces, leaving them better than they were

If you like nature, exploring and getting to know new places, surely you would like them to continue looking the same or even better than now in one, two or five years and together we can guarantee that’s the way it’s going to be, by keeping natural areas clean and safe.

There are people who share their love for nature and ecosystems with others by creating groups and joining efforts to rehabilitate or protect spaces, an example is the La Playa es de Todos campaign.

This campaign has been carried out since 2018 to protect the snowy plover. Every year between april and august we carry out different activities such as installing temporary protection fences, citizen science events to promote the importance of birds and their habitats and one of the simplest and most significant activities, the collective cleanup of beaches.

These types of collective cleanups are carried out throughout the year and are led by different groups of people. Even you can get together with your friends, neighbors or family and organize a small cleanup. It can be in your neighborhood, your favorite park or beach or any place that interests you.

Another thing we can do is collect the garbage that we find when we visit some place, even if it is not ours, and inspire those around us to do the same. An action is worth a thousand words and sometimes it is enough to take the initiative, let others see us and inspire them to join in and take care of their environment.

Super Bloom 2019
Photo by Alejandro Arias.

Tip #5 Do not leave waste or residues, remember that what you carry in your backpack goes back with you

What is the best we can do to not leave a trace? Take everything we brought back with us! For this, the best strategy is to plan ahead before visiting any place. 

Take into account how long you will be in that place so that you can carry the appropriate amount of each thing, such as food or toiletries and, above all, garbage bags or some type of container to store your waste. If you could bring it with you, you can take it with you.

Solid waste such as toilet paper or feminine pads can take a long time to break down. Pack them up and deposit them in a garbage container. This practice is extremely important when you visit arid places, such as deserts, because in these places there is little humidity and few pathogens, this causes the decomposition process to be much slower.

Imagine that every time a friend or family member visits your house, they help you clean and tidy up everything that they dirty and used. It would be very nice, don’t you think? The same applies when we visit some place.

Many natural spaces are home to a great variety of species of flora and fauna. They allow us to visit them, enter their home and have a good time. The least we can do is leave no trace.