Eradicating an invasive species on uninhabited islands is a daunting task, yet it has been done successfully hundreds of times. Eradication becomes much more complex on inhabited islands where private property owners can influence outcomes. With Virginia Tech and the Centro Austral de Investigaciones Cientificas, ACS participated in a new study that examined the possibility of eradicating the North American beaver, an unwanted invasive species, on the island archipelago of Tierra del Fuego in South America.
ACS associate Anna Santo conducted the study as part of her Master’s degree in the Department of Forest Resources & Environmental Conservation at Virginia Tech. Despite international cooperation between Argentina and Chile to eradicate beavers on the archipelago, nothing is known about ranchers' willingness to cooperate with an eradication process nor their perspectives about beaver as an invasive species. To find out, Santo and her colleagues designed a study to elicit ranchers’ perceptions of the impacts beavers cause to riparian areas. She started by first establishing ranchers’ baseline understanding of the ecosystem services riparian areas provide. She then asked ranchers to describe their understanding of how beavers influence the production of those services.
Santo found provisioning services - drinking water, livestock forage, and irrigation - to be the most salient to ranchers. Focusing on drinking water and forage, Santo found low agreement in how ranchers commonly understood beaver impacts to these services. “Most ranchers believe beavers are harmful to ecosystem services, but there is little agreement on the exact mechanisms by which beaver activity actually influences them” says Santo.
This understanding of rancher perceptions is important for eradication efforts. The lack of a shared knowledge system likely means the issue is not a highly relevant issue discussed amongst ranchers. Given its irrelevance for a considerable number of ranchers, participation in an eradication campaign may require external incentives. The lack of agreement also highlights an opportunity for framing the issue using an empirical understanding of stakeholder values rather than conservation practitioners’ intuitions, making the issue more salient and ultimately garnering more support the eradication of harmful invasive species.
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Santo, A.R, K. Guillozet, M.G. Sorice, T.D. Baird, S. Gray, C.J. Donlan, C.B. Anderson. 2017. Examining Private Landowners’ Knowledge Systems for an Invasive Species. Human Ecology. DOI: 10.1007/s10745-017-9920-7.