Understanding misunderstandings in invasion science : why experts don't agree on common concepts and risk assessments

  • Understanding the diverging opinions of academic experts, stakeholders and the public is important for effective conservation management. This is especially so when a consensus is needed for action to minimize future risks but the knowledge upon which to base this action is uncertain or missing. How to manage non-native, invasive species (NIS) is an interesting case in point: the issue has long been controversial among stakeholders, but publicly visible, major disagreement among experts is recent. To characterize the multitude of experts’ understanding and valuation of non-native, NIS we performed structured qualitative interviews with 26 academic experts, 13 of whom were invasion biologists and 13 landscape experts. Within both groups, thinking varied widely, not only about basic concepts (e.g., non-native, invasive) but also about their valuation of effects of NIS. The divergent opinions among experts, regarding both the overall severity of the problem in Europe and its importance for ecosystem services, contrasted strongly with the apparent consensus that emerges from scientific synthesis articles and policy documents. We postulate that the observed heterogeneity of expert judgments is related to three major factors: (1) diverging conceptual understandings, (2) lack of empirical information and high scientific uncertainties due to complexities and contingencies of invasion processes, and (3) missing deliberation of values. Based on theory from science studies, we interpret the notion of an NIS as a boundary object, i.e., concepts that have a similar but not identical meaning to different groups of experts and stakeholders. This interpretative flexibility of a concept can facilitate interaction across diverse groups but bears the risk of introducing misunderstandings. An alternative to seeking consensus on exact definitions and risk assessments would be for invasive species experts to acknowledge uncertainties and engage transparently with stakeholders and the public in deliberations about conflicting opinions, taking the role of honest brokers of policy alternatives rather than of issue advocates.

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Author:Franziska Humair, Peter J. Edwards, Michael Siegrist, Christoph Kueffer
Parent Title (German):NeoBiota
Place of publication:[s.l.]
Document Type:Article
Date of Publication (online):2014/07/25
Date of first Publication:2014/01/24
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Release Date:2014/07/25
Tag:Alien; biosecurity; concept; conservation; exotic; expertise; impact; invasion; management; native; nonnative; risk; stakeholder; uncertainty; valuation
Page Number:30
First Page:1
Last Page:30
Dewey Decimal Classification:5 Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik / 57 Biowissenschaften; Biologie / 570 Biowissenschaften; Biologie
Sammlungen:Sammlung Biologie / Sondersammelgebiets-Volltexte
Zeitschriften / Jahresberichte:NeoBiota / NeoBiota 20
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - Namensnennung 3.0