Perceptions and risk behaviors regarding biological invasions in inland aquatic ecosystems.
Public engagement is vital to effectively manage Invasive Alien Species (IAS) and biosecurity campaigns directed to stakeholders are decisive to raise awareness regarding IAS regulations and problems. To design and implement adequate communication plans, stakeholders' perceptions and risk behaviors regarding IAS need to be monitored by surveys. IAS do not recognize borders and most countries are not biogeographically isolated. Therefore, international information and consensus are necessary when applying measures at a biogeographic scale. Our bilingual survey was performed at the Iberian Peninsula, targeting the general public, decision-makers and other stakeholders, covering all taxa associated to inland aquatic ecosystems. We found differences in IAS' awareness between countries, and between different stakeholder groups. Results showed that the awareness of socioeconomic and human health impacts is substantially lower when compared with impacts on biodiversity. We found that the perception regarding the predation impacts is consistent across groups and countries, while other perceptions differ. The negative socioeconomic impact on angling due to IAS introductions is widely recognized. However, angling is also the activity most referred as positively impacted by IAS due to fish introductions. Most responders knew what IAS are, providing correct species examples. For all three awareness types (Biodiversity, Socio-economic and Human health) the model regressions showed that the most important predictor was the country of provenance of the respondent, followed by Education level for the socio-economic and biodiversity regressions and the stakeholder group in the Human health regression. We can conclude that in Portugal and Spain the general public and other key target-groups have reduced understanding of some threats posed by IAS. We highlight that raising awareness about IAS impacts on humans, namely on socio-economic aspects and human health, may be more effective and it is certainly needed in education campaigns towards IAS.