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Collective factors drive individual invasive species control behaviors: evidence from private lands in Montana, USA

Alice A. Lubeck, Human Dimensions Lab, W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation, University of Montana
Alexander L. Metcalf, Human Dimensions Lab, W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation, University of Montana
Crystal L. Beckman, Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation
Laurie Yung, W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation, University of Montana
Justin W. Angle, School of Business Administration, University of Montana


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Invasive terrestrial plants globally threaten agricultural and natural systems. Prolific dispersal mechanisms enable “weeds” to colonize across ownership boundaries, constituting a collective action problem where effective control requires contributions from multiple actors. Researchers have long recognized the cross-boundary nature of weed control, yet most studies have focused on whether actor-specific characteristics, such as sociodemographics and cognition, influenced individual weed control behaviors. More recent work has begun to explore the drivers of communal control efforts, i.e., cooperatives, group actions. Few studies have empirically investigated how the collective aspects of weed invasions influence individual control behaviors. Here we provide quantitative evidence of a relationship between collective aspects of the weed control problem and landowners’ willingness to engage in individual weed control efforts. In a mail-back survey of Montana landowners (n = 1327) we found collective factors, such as injunctive norms and the belief that weeds are a cross-boundary problem, were significantly correlated with willingness to engage in three different weed control behaviors. Each behavior was correlated with a unique suite of collective factors suggesting that successful interventions must be behavior-specific. These results add to a growing body of evidence that the collective nature of invasive species control is critical for understanding human behavioral responses.

Key words

collective action; conservation; Montana; private lands; weed control

Copyright © 2019 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087