Programs designed using a human-centered approach will complement landowners’ land-use objectives, increase cooperation, and ultimately improve conservation outcomes.

Understanding and incorporating stakeholder preferences, perceptions, and beliefs into management strategies is an ongoing challenge for conservation practitioners worldwide. Doing so is becoming more important for invasive species management. Non-native species are a big deal: invasive species like cats and rats are responsible for more documented extinctions than any other factor connected to humans. Over the past two decades, conservation practitioners have innovated a handful of techniques to remove invasive species from islands—preventing many extinctions and restoring entire ecosystems. Success has led practitioners to tackle larger and larger islands. For example, ACS’s Josh Donlan played an important role in one of the world’s largest successful island restoration projects: Project Isabela removed non-native goats from two of the largest islands in the Galapagos Islands. With this success, human-inhabited islands are being targeted for restoration, which brings new challenges to invasive species management.

The removal of non-native species from human-inhabited islands requires cooperation of private landowners. Since the complete removal of an invasive species is an all-or-nothing proposition, non-cooperation from single landowner threatens the success of an entire program. Thus, understanding the preferences and needs of landowners can improve eradication program design on inhabited islands. An article published this month in the journal Global Environmental Change presents a new way of thinking about the design of  invasive species removal programs. ACS and colleagues used a human-centered approach to characterize landowner perceptions, preferences, and potential support for a large-scale initiative to remove invasive North American beaver from Tierra del Fuego in South America. The study, which quantified ranchers perceptions toward beaver removal programs, was led by Virginia Tech’s Michael Sorice and graduate student Anna Santo. Using social science survey techniques, we identified what program-related factors influence landowners’ likelihood to participate and cooperate in an invasive species removal program. Landowners rated programs that randomly varied by contract length, required level of landowner involvement, institutional administrator, payment, social norms (i.e., whether your neighbor was participating), and probability of a successful removal. Landowners in Tierra del Fuego were generally more willing to participate under three conditions: (1) increased payments, (2) increased expectations of program success, and (3) low requirements for landowner involvement. Our results suggest that incorporating feedbacks into program design can increase public support, and that landowners in Tierra del Fuego may not express the same preference for program involvement that exists with ranchers in other regions of the world. 

 A human-centered approach provides a cost-effective, rapid, and scalable tool to document and incorporate local values into conservation program design. Programs built using a human-centered approach will complement landowners’ land-use objectives, increase cooperation, and ultimately improve conservation outcomes.

Click here for a copy of the paper.

Santo, A.R., M.G. Sorice, C.J. Donlan, C.T. Franck, C.B. Anderson. 2015. A human-centered approach to designing invasive species eradication programs on human-inhabited islands. Global Environmental Change 35:289-209.