Does public awareness increase support for the management of invasive species?
When managing invasive species, it is important to consider conflicts of interest between sectors of society at an early stage to avoid problems when implementing such actions. Using literature reviews and face to face interviews (in South Africa and the United Kingdom), the present study assessed if human perceptions were influenced by taxonomic position (i.e. plant or animal species) and landscape (urban vs non-urban). From the literature review, 83 % of the papers reviewed highlighted that a lack of public support in the management of animal species in both urban and non-urban areas was due to utilitarian or ethical reasons. For invasive plants, conflicts of interest were mainly due to ethical concerns. For the face to face surveys, participants were asked their perceptions on the management of two species. For South Africa, participants were presented with questions around Opuntia stricta (prickly pear) and Sclerophrys gutturalis (guttural toad), both non-native invasive species in the region. Likewise, for the United Kingdom, participants were presented with questions concerning Impatiens glandulifera (Himalayan balsam – EPPO List of IAP) and Sciurus carolinensis (grey squirrel). In South Africa, 66 % of participants recognized O. stricta compared to 16 % recognizing S. gutturalis. In GB, it was the opposite, only 18 % of participants recognized the invasive plant I. glandulifera though all recognized S. carolinensis. When provided with information on each species, including the status of the species in the country, invasiveness and associated impacts, respondents who had previously replied negatively to management actions were more prone to accept actions against the species. Informing the public about the status of a species proposed for management, i.e. it is non-native and causes detrimental impacts, is often enough to substantially increase support for management actions.
Novoa A, Dehnen-Schmutz K, Fried J, Vimercati G (2017) Does public awareness increase support for invasive species management? Promising evidence across taxa and landscape types. Biological Invasions. DOI: 10.1007/s10530-017-1592-0.