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Introduced and invasive species can present big problems, particularly when those species are charismatic, finds a recently published paper in the Ecological Society of America's journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.
People tend to have a more favorable view of species that are large; do not bite, crawl, or squirm; are not oily or slimy; or are culturally valued. Some introduced species, like zebra mussels, tend to be reviled by the public, and people willingly adhere to strict management policies.
Animal - Quality - Charisma - People - Environment
However, if an animal has that elusive quality of charisma, people often don't want it to be controlled, even if it's harming the environment. Inevitably, these imbalances in public perception of introduced species influence the way those organisms are managed.
Take the ring-necked parakeet (Psittacula krameri) for example. The pet trade has led to an established population of parakeets in Europe, far outside the species' native range. Even though parakeets can transmit diseases to native birds, compete with them for nesting cavities, and are recognized as a crop pest, the public enjoys seeing them in parks, gardens, and homes. Introduced parakeets tend to be released in cities, but the parakeets actually exact the most damage in rural areas. But because people have grown used to them, they are likely to oppose eradication efforts that take place before the birds become an established nuisance.
Opposition - Management - Species - Mismatches—differences - Scales
Opposition to the management of charismatic species can be exacerbated by these "social-ecological mismatches—differences between the scales of interacting social and ecological systems. In the parakeets' case, the introduced birds have not been around for more than a few decades, which is not a long time on an ecological scale. But it is long for humans—many have grown up knowing the parakeets are part of their neighborhood, and so oppose efforts to manage them.
A group of researchers from the US...
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