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Evaluating the role of stakeholder preferences, values, and structural forces in the management of an aquatic invasive species in the midwestern US

Authors: Abigail Sullivan*, Indiana University, Matthew Houser, Indiana University, Ranjan Muthukrishnan, Indiana University
Topics: Natural Resources, Environmental Perception, Sustainability Science
Keywords: invasive species, decision making, environmental governance, institutions
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Invasive species are a prominent driver of global environmental change and management of biological invasions is a complex issue that requires that requires attention to social and ecological contexts. Management efforts implemented without consideration of social dimensions have often been delayed or have failed due to community resistance. Despite this, much invasive species research has focused solely on the ecological dynamics of invasions. To advance our understanding of the social dimensions of efforts to confront invasive species, we analyze decision-making among stakeholders impacted by starry stonewort (Nitellopsis obtusa), a freshwater alga and key emerging invader in lakes in the upper midwestern US. Through a content analysis of semi-structured interviews with stakeholders associated with lakes invaded by, or at risk for, starry stonewort in Indiana, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, we assess stakeholders’ management preferences and the factors that shape both preferences and current practices. We examine current management strategies, perceptions of the importance of addressing starry stonewort, and stakeholder goals, as well as motivational and structural factors that shape and potentially limit decision-making such as existing policy and community pressure. We highlight differences in preferences and motivators across stakeholder groups, regional patterns, and the impact of experience with starry stonewort on decision-making. Finally, we discuss potential mismatches between stakeholder preferences and scientific knowledge of management strategies. This research, in combination with stakeholder engagement efforts, may help lead to the adoption of management strategies that are better targeted to both the ecological and social circumstances of midwestern lake systems.

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