Research on the social perception of invasive species: a systematic literature review

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We conducted a systematic literature review of the current state of research on the social perceptions of invasive species, aiming to provide guidance towards transdisciplinary research and participatory decision making. In order to detect patterns regarding publication trends and factors determining social perceptions of invasive species, we applied qualitative content as well as quantitative data analysis. By applying content analysis, we identified five main categories of influence on the perception of invasive species: ecological conditions, social conditions, values and beliefs, impacts, and benefits. The disciplinary focus of the research was predominantly interdisciplinary, followed by a social sciences approach. Our review revealed a disproportionate use of quantitative methods in research on social perceptions of invasive species, yet quantitative methods were less likely to identify benefits as factors determining the perception of invasive species. However, without the understanding of perceived benefits, researchers and managers lack the socio-cultural context these species are embedded in. Our review also revealed the geographical, methodological and taxonomic bias of research on perceptions of invasive species. The majority of studies focused on the local public, whereas fewer than half of the studies focused on decision-makers. Furthermore, our results showed differences in the social perceptions of invasive species among different stakeholder groups. Consensus over the definition and terminology of invasive species was lacking whereas differences in terminology were clearly value-laden. In order to foster sustainable management of invasive species, research on social perceptions should focus on a transdisciplinary and transparent discourse about the inherent values of invasion science.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-68
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - 14.03.2019

Bibliographical note

H. Zimmermann received funding from the State of Lower Saxony (Niedersächsisches Ministerium für Wissenschaft und Kultur) and the Volkswagen Foundation in line with the research projects “Bridging the Great Divide” (Grant Number VWZN3188).