Invasive species services-disservices conundrum: a case study from Kashmir Himalaya.
Invasive species and their management represent a multi-faceted issue affecting social and natural systems. People see the advantages and risks of these species through various value structures, which influences decisions on whether and where they can be managed. While many studies have focused on the ecological effects of invasive species, their impact on human livelihoods and well-being is less recognized. Understanding the effects (benefits and costs) of invasive species on livelihoods and human well-being, as well as people's perception, is important for guiding policy formulation and devising management strategies. Here we present a case study of Dal Lake - a freshwater urban lake of Kashmir Himalaya - providing various ecological, biological, and hydrological functions that offer economic, aesthetic, recreational, educational, and other values to the local populace. In the context of a gradually increasing attention on the impacts of Invasive Alien Plant species (IAPs) on this ecosystem, we conducted Focal Group Discussions (FGDs) to determine the perception of people living inside and around Dal Lake regarding two invasive species, namely, Nymphea mexicana and Hydrocharis dubia, and their capacity to provide ecosystem services (ES) and disservices (EDS). Following that, a discursive scenario assessment tool multi-criteria mapping (MCM) was used to involve stakeholders in ranking their priorities in two scenarios of the lake- 'status quo' vs 'clean lake with limited weeds' in the Dal Lake social-ecological system. We found that their perception of the impact of invasive species varies with factors such as the location of invasive plants in the lake, and people's occupation, and household characteristics. Most participants perceive these species positively (i.e., agreeing that they create ecosystem services in the form of cattle feed), but some recognize their importance in providing ecosystem disservices. Their primary concern and priority were the sustenance of their livelihood in any scenario, and most respondents did not oppose the eradication of two IAPs if their livelihood is secure. We conclude that a more nuanced strategy to IAS management is required, one that combines both local livelihood demands and broader environmental and social considerations.