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Connecting human–nature relationships to environmental behaviors that minimize the spread of aquatic invasive species

Abstract

Management of aquatic invasive species (AIS) is widely recognized as a global conservation concern driven by myriad factors, particularly individual behaviors. A burgeoning literature focused on the human dimensions of AIS has begun to provide insight into the complexities of behavior change; however, most studies are bound to specific geographic locales and have prevented resource management agencies from making regionally valid statements about the anthropogenic factors contributing to biological invasions. We examined stakeholders’ awareness and knowledge of AIS transmission in an evaluation of educational outreach campaign logos and illustrated how human–nature relationships were related to behaviors relevant to AIS reduction at two case study sites. Drawing from a thematic analysis of data from semi-structured interviews with organisms-in-trade hobbyists and recreational water users in the state of Illinois, we observed high awareness of environmental impacts and modes of transmission by the two groups. Both awareness advanced through AIS outreach and a diversity of human–nature relationships were helpful for understanding reported environmental behaviors. Specifically, stakeholders’ views of their relationships with nature affected decisions to engage in activities that contributed to social-ecological change. Results also revealed preferences for national rather than state-level outreach campaign logos, which carry implications for designing communication strategies that will minimize the likelihood of biological invasions in freshwater ecosystems.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the participants who made this study possible by sharing their thoughtful observations and perspectives. We are grateful for logistical support provided by the Office of Recreation and Park Resources at the University of Illinois and management of North Point Marina and Chain O’Lakes State Park. Additionally, the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant Aquatic Invasive Species team offered helpful conceptual guidance and contributed to data collection. This study was funded by the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center.

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Correspondence to Carena J. van Riper.

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Kemp, C., van Riper, C.J., BouFajreldin, L. et al. Connecting human–nature relationships to environmental behaviors that minimize the spread of aquatic invasive species. Biol Invasions 19, 2059–2074 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-017-1418-0

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Keywords

  • Invasive species
  • Environmental behavior
  • Human dimensions
  • Freshwater ecosystems