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Barriers to participation in aquatic invasive species prevention among Illinois, USA recreational water users

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Abstract

The spread of invasive species is a globally relevant challenge for environmental management agencies. There have been considerable investments in outreach campaigns that encourage recreationists to minimize the spread of aquatic invasive species as they move between waterbodies. However, widespread behavior change has yet to take hold. Empirical evidence of the barriers that impede pro-environmental behaviors among water-based recreationists is thus urgently needed. With theoretical guidance from the Health Belief Model, we sought to understand how risk perceptions, perceived benefits, self-efficacy, and response-efficacy influenced aquatic invasive species prevention behavior, how barriers moderated those relationships, and how socio-demographic characteristics relate to the level of barriers experienced. Among all respondents, self-efficacy and response-efficacy had the strongest positive relationships with behavioral intentions; however, different relationships emerged for subgroups defined by the strength of perceived barriers. For recreationists who experienced low barriers, perceived benefits were the sole predictor of intended behavior, whereas for recreationists experiencing moderate barriers, only self-efficacy was a significant predictor. Recreationists who perceived high and very high barriers were influenced by risk perceptions, self-efficacy, and response-efficacy. Strength of perceived barriers was negatively correlated with years of fishing and boating experience. Additionally, a comparison between boating and angling behaviors indicated that boaters need more information about how to complete prevention steps, whereas anglers need more information about why such actions are necessary. Ultimately, outreach campaigns should aim to boost self-efficacy and response-efficacy in order to support diverse audiences faced with barriers that impede engagement in invasive species prevention.

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Data availability

The datasets analyzed during this study will be made openly available via Zenodo at https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7725481.

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Acknowledgements

Thanks are extended to the individuals who shared their experiences and knowledge in support of this research process. Funding for this study was provided by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Illinois Department of Natural Resources (Grant Number CAFWS-144A) and USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Hatch Program (Accession #: 1012211).

Funding

This work was supported by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, USFWS, Illinois Department of Natural Resources Grant (# CAFWS-144A) and USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Hatch program (Accession #: 1012211).

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All authors contributed to the study conception including the development of research objectives. Carena van Riper and Greg Hitzroth acquired the funding. Elizabeth Golebie and Carena van Riper collected the data with contributions from all authors on survey development. Analyses were performed by Elizabeth Golebie. The first draft of the manuscript was written by Elizabeth Golebie and all authors reviewed and edited the manuscript and approved the final version.

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Correspondence to Carena J. van Riper.

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Golebie, E.J., van Riper, C.J., Hitzroth, G. et al. Barriers to participation in aquatic invasive species prevention among Illinois, USA recreational water users. Biol Invasions 25, 2549–2565 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-023-03055-x

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