Social sciences perspectives: How to categorize invasive alien species?
In her study, Menozzi (2010) analyzed scientific papers and papers for the general public on Ludwigia peploides and L. grandiflora (Onagraceae, EPPO List of IAP) in France. She found that scientific papers seek to characterize biological invasions by producing definitions and criteria whereas papers for the general public aim to describe the proliferation of a plant considered as noxious in a given territory. In both cases, uncertainties in the categorization of these species could be noted.
Interviews with residents (farmers, fishermen, canoe hire staff, mayors) revealed that they themselves recognize the species as invading the territory. The species was considered problematic once it perturbed activities such as fishing, hunting, and boating.
The author considered that among scientists, the consideration of negative impacts on the environment to define a biological invasion is controversial as some consider it as too subjective. The majority of the scientific community considers only exotic species to be invasive species but this criterion might still be controversial. The distinction between native and exotic was not made by the general public who considered that as long as the species is present on the territory, it is a local one. For the residents, a classification “useful/noxious” was more relevant than one based on the origin of the plant. Considering the terms used by scientists, managers, the press and the general public to talk about these species, it was observed that a military vocabulary was used (eradication, war, etc.).
The author concluded that although social sciences researchers may consider the xenophobic dimension in the biological invasions discourses, the behaviors towards invasive species are rather pragmatic as these species are suppressed because they create nuisances.
Menozzi MJ (2010) Comment catégoriser les espèces exotiques envahissantes. Etudes rurales 185, 51-66.