Perceptions of alien plants and animals and acceptance of control methods among different societal groups.
Biological invasions are a widespread phenomenon and cause substantial impacts on the natural environment and human livelihoods. Thus, the European Union (EU) recently adopted Regulation No 1143/2014 to limit the negative impacts of invasive alien species (IAS). For implementing IAS management and policies, public support is highly and increasingly important, especially when it comes to charismatic species and lethal methods. Recognising the importance of the interaction of public perception with acceptance of IAS management methods, we used an online survey targeting three different stakeholder groups in Austria to evaluate potential differences in perception of IAS and management methods. In total, we received 239 completed responses: 20 nature users (farmers, hunters), 91 nature experts (conservationists, biologists) and 128 from the general public. Participants were more likely to accept lethal management methods when it was an IAS. Nature experts' acceptance of IAS management methods was rather similar to those of nature users, while the general public preferred non-lethal methods. Chemical lethal methods (herbicides, poison pellets) received low rates of acceptance throughout all stakeholder groups, although nature users were more open to accept such methods for plants. Most respondents (> 50%) were not aware of the role of the EU in IAS topics nor did they know of the existence of the EU IAS regulation 1143/2014. However, more than 75% of respondents agreed that IAS measures and regulations should be implemented at EU level. This study shows that knowledge about native versus invasive alien status has an influence on the acceptance of management methods. Nature users may have higher levels of acceptance of lethal methods because they are economically dependent on extracting resources from nature. Invasive alien species regulations on EU level are generally acceptable, but there is low awareness for actions already undertaken EU.