Assessing Local Attitudes and Perceptions of Non-Native Species to Inform Management of Novel Ecosystems

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Biological Invasions

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The formation of novel ecosystems by non-native species poses management challenges that are both socially and ecologically complex. Negative attitudes towards non-native species can complicate management in cases where non-native species provide ecosystem service benefits. Due to their intentional introduction over a century ago, non-native mangroves in Hawai’i present a unique case study. Although some have called for eradication of mangroves from Hawai’i, an active management approach may ultimately offer the greatest benefits to both the ecosystem and society by allowing mangroves to persist in locations where they provide habitat and crabbing access, while limiting their extent in other locations to protect native bird habitat and allow for beach and ocean access. We evaluated (1) attitudes and perceptions about non-native mangroves, (2) factors influencing these attitudes, and (3) support for different management approaches by surveying residents of Moloka’i, Hawai’i (n = 204). Negative attitudes towards mangroves were influenced by a lack of reliance on mangroves for benefit and a concern about threats to Moloka’i’s coast. Active management was supported by 88% of residents, while 41% supported eradication. Among the 88% in favor of active management, 24% of written in responses expressed a need for maintaining the benefits of mangroves and 67% described reducing the negative impacts, while 4% acknowledged both the benefit and harm the species has on the environment. As successful non-native species management may be dependent on local support, we emphasize that understanding human attitudes and perceptions is beneficial for non-native species managers in any location. Results from our study highlight the importance of understanding social attitudes towards non-native species management strategies from propagation to eradication. We conclude with a framework for integrating stakeholder attitudes and beliefs into novel ecosystem management.


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