Williams, Robert J., Alison M. Dunn, Claire H. Quinn, & Christopher Hassall (in press). Stakeholder discourse and opinion towards a charismatic non‐native lizard species: Potential invasive problem or a welcome addition? People and Nature. (Open Access) (ePub in advance of print) (doi: 10.1002/pan3.18) (Link: https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/pan3.18)
Abstract: Analysis of discourse between stakeholders is becoming increasingly recognised for its importance in resolving conflicts of opinion regarding complex environmental issues such as the human‐mediated spread of invasive non‐native species—one of the major drivers of biodiversity loss world‐wide. Species’ attributes, stakeholders’ level of knowledge, perceptions of threat, attitudes towards intervention and nature values all have subjective influence on opinion, often creating highly opposed interests and perspectives that can create barriers preventing effective management. Using a Q method approach towards analysis of subjective opinion among stakeholders, this study aimed to identify emerging viewpoints regarding the presence of Common Wall Lizards (Podarcis muralis) in the UK—an introduced, non‐native species with which there are high levels of human interaction but low levels of knowledge regarding potential negative ecological impacts. It explores the ways in which different stakeholder groups (i.e., public, land managers, conservationists) might share views and the reasoning behind shared or opposing discourse between groups. Three clearly defined viewpoints on the species’ introduction emerge from the analysis of Q sorts: ‘Innocent until proven guilty’, ‘Precautionary informed concern’ and ‘The more the merrier’. These perspectives reflect both stark differences and commonalities in stakeholder perceptions and opinion towards the species’ introduction. Whereas the ‘Innocent until proven guilty’ and ‘Precautionary, informed concern’ views are defined by differences in levels of ecological knowledge and impact uncertainty between them, the divergence of the ‘More the merrier’ view from both other viewpoints appears to be more reflective of pronounced variation between the groups deeper beliefs, perceptions and values about ‘naturalness and balance’, and overall relationship with nature. These findings will be useful in identifying discordant attitudes and areas of potential contention between stakeholders that may arise in consideration of management decisions regarding non‐native species more widely. The holistic method of interpreting the analysis gives insight into how and why stakeholders may have formulated certain viewpoints. This in turn could help conservation managers identify ways in which to appreciate and work with subjective influences on stakeholder perceptions in order to best communicate the complex challenges and opportunities presented by non‐native species.
Robert J Williams < firstname.lastname@example.org> is with the Faculty of Biological Sciences, School of Biology, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK.