Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Assessing the success of invasive species prevention efforts at changing the behaviors of recreational boaters.

Abstract

Aquatic invasive species (AIS) pose major conservation challenges in freshwater ecosystems. In response, conservation organizations invest considerable resources in outreach to encourage AIS prevention behaviors among recreational boaters. Despite this, remarkably little is known about whether these efforts catalyze significant changes in boaters' perceptions, or whether they cause changes in behaviors that reduce AIS risk. We interviewed managers at the 14 Illinois organizations active in AIS outreach to determine regional priorities for, and investment in, AIS outreach. The results show a network of collaboration that reinforces a limited set of conservation messages. Next, we surveyed 515 recreational boaters to evaluate access to outreach, knowledge of AIS, and consistency of prevention behavior. Boater recognition of prevention slogans and knowledge of AIS and AIS prevention behavior was similar across Illinois regions despite large regional differences in investment in outreach. Most boaters (94%) report never intentionally moving organisms among waterbodies. Fewer reported that they Always perform recommended actions to reduce risk of AIS spread on their boat interior (68%), boat exterior (63%), or fishing tackle (47%). Recognition of prevention slogans and the number of AIS recognized were significantly, positively, associated with Always performing AIS prevention behavior on the vectors of the boat exterior, and fishing tackle, respectively. Our results suggest that increasing knowledge may be a necessary condition for higher adoption of AIS prevention behaviors, but that this alone may not be sufficient. Instead, efforts targeted at boaters who do not currently practice the recommended actions are likely to be necessary.