Does public awareness increase support for invasive species management? Promising evidence across taxa and landscape types
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Management of invasive species often raises substantial conflicts of interest. Since such conflicts can hamper proposed management actions, managers, decision makers and researchers increasingly recognize the need to consider the social dimensions of invasive species management. In this exploratory study, we aimed (1) to explore whether species’ taxonomic position (i.e. animals vs. plants) and type of invaded landscape (i.e. urban vs. nonurban) might influence public perception about the management of invasive species, and (2) to assess the potential of public awareness to increase public support for invasive species management. We reviewed the scientific literature on the conflicts of interest around the management of alien species and administered two-phased questionnaires (before and after providing information on the target species and its management) to members of the public in South Africa and the UK (n = 240). Our review suggests that lack of public support for the management of invasive animals in both urban and non-urban areas derives mainly from moralistic value disagreements, while the management of invasive plants in non-urban areas mostly causes conflicts based on utilitarian value disagreements. Despite these general trends, conflicts are context dependent and can originate from a wide variety of different views. Notably, informing the public about the invasive status and negative impacts of the species targeted for management appeared to increase public support for the management actions. Therefore, our results align with the view that increased public awareness might increase the public support for the management of invasive species, independent of taxonomic position and type of landscape.