Understanding individuals' perceptions of oak wilt and its implications for invasive species management

Authors: Matthew Morrissey*, Western Michigan University
Topics: Environmental Perception, Human-Environment Geography, Biogeography
Keywords: oak wilt, invasive species, perception
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Jackson, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Oak wilt, an exotic, invasive fungal disease preys upon oak tree species (Quercus sp.) and has begun to cause die-off in oak stands throughout the state of Michigan, with outlooks of increased cases and subsequent death. Despite efforts to treat the disease, there is no real treatment for already infected oak trees. The best option is to control the infection and prevent its spread, by informed-pruning, disconnecting root systems, and preventing the movement of infected firewood. Given that humans play a role in oak wilt’s artificial spread, it is imperative that the public understands their role in the management of oak wilt. This study’s primary objective was to determine whether or not the general public within Grand Traverse County, Michigan, understands the threat posed by oak wilt and whether or not they are willing to participate in behaviors that prevent its spread. The study involved a mixed-methods data collection approach, using both Likert scale and open-ended questions, acquired through a door-to-door questionnaire. Statistical analyses were used to determine significant differences in understanding of oak wilt and willingness to participate in preventative measures among different demographic variables. Recommendations for state resource agencies and local environmental groups will be made with regard to their outreach and education efforts.

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