Stakeholder perceptions of an ecosystem services approach to clearing invasive alien plants on private land
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Incentivizing private landowners and other stakeholders is central to the effective conservation of ecosystem services in working landscapes. To better understand how to design effective incentives, the perceptions of landowners and other stakeholders are explored regarding a proposed approach to clearing invasive alien plants on private land in the Western Cape Province, South Africa. The public funded national program, Working for Water, conserves ecosystem services while employing and training people from marginalized sectors of society to clear these plants. Private landowner involvement is a key conservation challenge, because without adequate landowner involvement, invasive alien plants persist on the landscape and continuously reinvade cleared areas. We collected interview data from private landowners in three study sites, and web survey data from conservation professionals and Working for Water managers, in order to compare stakeholder perceptions of (1) government and landowners’ responsibilities for clearing invasive alien plants; (2) existing and proposed policy tools; and (3) the extent to which stakeholders consider the proposed financial incentive to be sufficient. There was significant consensus among stakeholders concerning their preference for shared landowner and government responsibility and for a policy mix that combines incentives with disincentives. Landowners from the three study sites differed in the level of responsibility they were willing to assume. Stakeholders also diverged in terms of their perceptions of the proposed financial incentives. Furthermore, the perspectives of landowners were strongly associated with ecological and social features of the landscapes in which they are located. Understanding stakeholders’ points of view within their differing contexts is shown to be a valuable means of gaining insight into the opportunities and constraints that face ecosystem service conservation in working landscapes.