By Tanja Straka, Luise Bach, Ulrike Klisch, Monika Egerer, Leonie K. Fischer, and Ingo Kowarik.
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Cities are hotspots for non-native species, and managing these species is an important issue in environmental policy. However, related actions are highly controversial because non-native species can be both harmful and beneficial, and some people are generally opposed to killing animals or eradicating plants. Understanding why people accept or reject actions against non-native species can make urban biodiversity conservation more effective. We found that urban residents’ personal backgrounds, including their emotions and thoughts about nature, are crucial to their views on actions against non-native species. This has important management implications.
We asked 658 residents in Berlin, Germany about how they view three types of action on non-native animals and plants, with increasing severity from doing nothing to unspecified population control to total species removal. We showed pictures of two non-native animals (raccoon, mandarin duck) and plants (tree of heaven, Indian balsam) together with pictures of similar native species to find out if there are different views on native and non-native species.
In general, views on action toward animal and plant species were similar. Total removal of species found the least support. However, respondents supported actions against non-native species more than for native species. We identified a number of explanations for the different views of the various actions. For example, women, younger people and gardeners were more tolerant of non-native species. However, respondents’ values, feelings, beliefs, and self-assessed knowledge about nature were most important in explaining their views on actions against non-native species. For example, those who ascribed human characteristics to animals or plants were more tolerant of non-natives. Moreover, what people believed about non-native species was more important than what they knew about them.
We conclude that environmental managers should be aware of the striking diversity of people’s views on measures to control – or not control – non-native species. Consideration of this diversity is key to determining appropriate and widely accepted measures towards these species in cities.