Public and professional views on invasive non-native species: A qualitative social scientific investigation

Sebastian Selge, Anke Fischer, Rene van der Wal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

112 Citations (Scopus)


The potential of invasive non-native species to modify ecosystems is well established. Yet, the resulting visibility of the field of invasion biology and its growing influence on policy decisions has led to the development of persistent critique. In addition, public opposition to the removal of non-native species has repeatedly delayed interventions, sometimes to the point where eradication has become impossible. Understanding the views of the lay-public is thus of crucial importance. Our study investigated views on invasive non-native species as held by both the general public and ecologists. We chose an in-depth qualitative social scientific approach to identify species attributes that people draw on to evaluate biological invasions and potential management options. Interviews and focus group discussions (n = 79 participants) were conducted in the North-east of Scotland, and included members of the public from a wide range of backgrounds, as well as research ecologists and professionals dealing with invasive non-native species. Two key arguments, namely (i) harmfulness of a species and (ii) human responsibility for its spread, shaped both ecologists' and lay-people's discussions. Non-nativeness was understood by our participants in various ways and did not necessarily raise concerns about a species. Our results indicate that for information campaigns on species management to be effective, values inherent to the debate about invasive non-native species need addressing in a more explicit and transparent manner. Arguments such as human responsibility that are currently neglected in the scientific discourse, but that were important criteria for a wide range of participants, should be made explicit. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3089-3097
Number of pages9
JournalBiological Conservation
Issue number12
Early online date25 Oct 2011
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011


  • alien species
  • attitudes
  • biological invasions
  • invasion biology
  • public opposition
  • public views


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