Evaluating detection efforts and management of alien and invasive species by citizens in Western Cape, South Africa

Tshali, Nolwethu (2021-03)

Thesis (MSc)--Stellenbosch University, 2021.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Invasive alien species (IAS) are a growing threat globally and cause a variety of ecological, economic and social impacts. People play a key role in introducing IAS and facilitating their spread but also in implementing and supporting management. Research and management of IAS traditionally focuses on biological dimensions and on state operated large scale control initiatives, with little emphasis on the social dimensions. Citizens can, however, contribute to prevention, detection, eradication and containment of IAS and getting an understanding of the extent of knowledge, perceptions and involvement in IAS management is important. I evaluate the motivations and contributions of individual volunteers and groups to the control of IAS in South Africa’s Western Cape province. I use two different online questionnaires, one for volunteer group co-ordinators and the other for individual volunteers involved in the control of invasive alien plant species (IAPS). In total, I identify 52 volunteer groups, most of which were motivated to take action by the rapid expansion of IAPS in their local areas, and their perceived need to maintain pristine fynbos. I estimate that half of these groups that participated in the survey clear nearly 5 300 ha of land with estimated labour costs of ZAR 5.1 million annually (equivalent to USD 0.32 million) when aligned with formal state management cost estimates. Most volunteer groups work on Australian Acacia species, raising their own funds to facilitate their work. Further, many groups affirm that they require support from governmental conservation organisations, for manpower to remove biomass and bigger plants, tools, training for new members and to comply with legislation on herbicide use. The majority of volunteers (82%) detect and report invasive species to relevant authorities, citizen science platforms and to their team leaders, while only 16% of volunteers said that they have never reported IAPS. Volunteers themselves gain fulfilment and build their social capital by meeting and interacting with new people and preserving native biodiversity. The contribution of these volunteer groups to IAPS management is important, but there is the need for better co-ordination and engagement between volunteer groups and mandated authorities working on science, policy and management. I also administered questionnaires to citizens in eight small towns in the Berg River Catchment in Western Cape, South Africa, where volunteer groups are largely absent aiming to assess their knowledge and perceptions of IAS. Overall, 262 respondents participated in the survey. More than half of the respondents 65% (n = 171) explicitly did not know the meaning of IAS, and 10% (n = 25) were unsure. Many respondents perceive IAS as beneficial. Using a logistic regression, I find that the minority of respondents who understand the concept of IAS were men with higher education levels, living in areas where IAS density is higher. Knowledge of IAS is found to be a pre-requisite for citizens engaging in reporting and removing IAS, and for them to get involved in volunteer programmes aimed at controlling IAS. I conclude that the citizens remain largely unaware of IAS and their impacts, in the Western Cape. However, once informed, some respondents 53% (n = 139) showed interest and willingness to learn more about IAS and their impacts regardless of their current level of knowledge. This suggests the need for better education campaigns which might help to facilitate support of IAS management efforts by the public in the future. I conclude that there is a need to promote a broad public understanding of IAS in South Africa and help to facilitate ongoing citizen initiatives. The state support of volunteers could be used as a potential vehicle to promote awareness on IAS more generally. Creation of new volunteer groups in the Berg River Catchment may represent a potential way to increase citizen knowledge, co-ordinate awareness and reporting and management of IAS. This thesis highlights the importance of the social dimensions in invasion science and the need for better engagement between different stakeholders to improve reporting, policy and management surrounding biological invasions in South Africa.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Uitheemse indringerspesies hou 'n toenemende bedreiging in vir ekosisteme wêreldwyd en het 'n verskeidenheid ekologiese, ekonomiese en sosiale gevolge. Die mens speel 'n sleutelrol in die bekendstelling en en verspreiding van indringerspesies, maar is ook verantwoordelik vir die implementering en ondersteuning van die bestuur van indringerspesies. Navorsing en bestuur van indringerspesies fokus tradisioneel op die biologiese aspekte en op grootskaalse indringerbeheerprojekte wat deur die staat aangevoer word. Daar word egtermin klem op die sosiale aspekte van indringerspesies gelê. Burgers kan egter ‘n bydra tot die voorkoming, opsporing, uitwissing en beperking van indringerspesies lewer, en 'n begrip kry van die omvang van kennis, persepsies en betrokkenheid by die bestuur van indringers. In hoofstuk 2 van hierdie tesis evalueer ek die motivering en bydrae van individuele vrywilligers en groepe tot die bestuur van indringerspesies in Suid-Afrika se Wes-Kaapprovinsie. Die data is versamel met behulp van twee aanlyn vraelyste, een gemik op koördineerders van vrywilligergroepe en die ander een wat gerig is aan individuele vrywilligers wat betrokke is by die bestuur van indringerspesies. In totaal het ek 52 vrywilligergroepe geïdentifiseer waarvandie meerderheid tot aksie gemotiveer is deur die vinnige verspreiding van indringerplantspesies in hul plaaslike gebiede, en hul klaarblyklike behoefte om ongerepte fynbos in stand te hou. Ek beraam dat die helfte van die groepe wat aan die opname deelgeneem het, ongeveer 5 300 ha skoonmaak met ‘n geraamde arbeidskoste van ZAR 5.1 miljoen per jaar (gelykstaande aan USD 0.32 miljoen) as dit vergelyk word met formele staatsbestuur kosteberamings. Die meeste vrywilligergroepe fokus op Australiese Akasia-spesies en samel hul eie fondse in om hul werk moontlik te maak. Baie groepe het ook bevestig dat hulle ondersteuning van regeringsbewaringsorganisasies benodig hoofsaaklik vir mannekrag vir die verwydering van biomassa en groter plante, gereedskap, opleiding vir nuwe lede en om aan wetgewing ingevolge die gebruik van onkruiddoders te voldoen. Die meerderheid vrywilligers (82%) ontdek indringerspesies en meld dit aan byrelevante owerhede, sowel as burgerwetenskapplatforms en hul spanleiers, terwyl slegs 16% van vrywilligers gesê het dat hulle nog nooit 'n indringerspesie aangemeld het nie. Vrywilligers kry vervulling en bou hul sosiale kapitaal deur bymekaarkomste en interaksie met nuwe mense, en die bewaringvan inheemse biodiversiteit. Die bydrae van hierdie vrywilligers tot die bestuur van indringerplantspesies is waardevol, maar daar is ‘n behoefte aan beter koördinering en samewerking tussen vrywilligers en die betrokke owerhede verantwoordelik virwetenskap, beleid en bestuur. In hoofstuk 3 het ek vraelyste aan inwoners van agt (8) klein dorpies in die Bergrivier-opvangsgebied in die Wes-Kaap, Suid-Afrika, verskaf met die doel om die inwoners se kennis en persepsies van uitheemse indringerspesies te assesseer. Altesaam 262 respondente het aan die opname deelgeneem. Meer as die helfte van die respondente 65% (n = 171) het uitdruklik (aangedui dat hulle nie weet wat…) nie geweet wat die betekenis van uitheemse indringerspesies is nie en 10% (n = 25) was onseker. Heelwat respondente beskou uitheemste indringerspesies as voordelig. Met behulp van 'n logaritmiese regressie het ek gevind dat die minderheid van respondente wat die konsep van uitheemse indringerspesies verstaan, mans is met hoë opleidingsvlakke wat woonagtig is in areas met ‘n hoë digtheid van indringerspesies. Benewens opleidingsvlak, is geslag en die digtheid van indringerspesies bevind as die beste veranderlikes wat kennis van uitheemse indringerspesies verduidelik. Kennis van uitheemse indringerspesies blyk om 'n voorvereiste te wees vir burgers wat betrokke is by die verslagdoening en verwydering van uitheemse indringerspesies, en vir hul betrokkenheid by vrywillige programme wat daarop gemik is om indringerspesies te beheer. Ek kom tot die gevolgtrekking dat die burgers grootliks onbewus bly van uitheemse indringerspesies en die impak daarvan in die Wes-Kaap. Na respondente wel ingelig is, het 53% (n = 139) van die respondent getoon dat hulle belangstel en bereid is om meer oor indringerspesies en hul impak te leer, ongeag hul huidige kennis. Dit dui op ‘n behoefte aan beter s bewusmakingsveldtogte wat ondersteuning kan bied aan indringerbestuursprojekte wat deur die publiek gedryf word. Ek kom tot die gevolgtrekking dat daar 'n behoefte is om die publiek se kennis oor uitheemse indringerspesies in Suid-Afrika te verbeter en om bestaande burgerlike inisiatiewe te ondersteun. Die resultate van hierdie tesis beklemtoon die belangrikheid van die sosiale aspekte van indringerwetenskap en die behoefte aan beter samewerking tussen verskillende belanghebbendes om sodoende die navorsing, beleid en bestuur van biologiese indringers in Suid-Afrika te bevorder.

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