Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Disconnection between conservation awareness and outcome: identifying a bottleneck on non-native species introduction via footwear.

Abstract

Unintentional seed introduction mediated by visitor's clothing and footwear is a major source of biological invasion into natural areas. To effectively avert these unintentional introductions, we must understand the links that connect relevant knowledge and desired outcome (i.e., seeds not carried on visitor's belongings); however, until now, these links have not been examined. Here, we investigated the links among a visitor's knowledge about biological invasion, awareness of biological invasion, behavior to prevent introduction (cleaning footwear), and being a seed carrier to identify a potential bottleneck between visitor knowledge and ecological outcome. In order to achieve this, we conducted a questionnaire survey and soil sampling from the footwear of visitors to an alpine national park. Soil samples (n = 344) were subjected to a germination experiment, and the number of emerged seedlings was recorded for each sample. We observed seedlings emerging from 27 soil samples (7.8% of visitors; 44 seedlings in total), comprising non-native species. The degree of a visitor's knowledge about biological invasion increased with the increase in the degree of awareness. However, the high degree of awareness was not linked with the actual behavior of cleaning their footwear before the visit, although footwear cleaning effectively reduced the number of emerged seedlings. We found the lack of a clear association between awareness and behavior (cleaning the footwear) to be the bottleneck. We also investigated the major sources of knowledge about human-mediated seed introduction from footwear and found that television was the most important information source. The key to effectively preventing negative impacts on ecosystems caused by the introduction of non-native species could be to revise methods for informing the community, which will help overcome the bottleneck between awareness and behavior.