An international team of scientists, led by the Biology Center of the Czech Academy of Sciences and the Leibniz Institute for Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB), has examined the influence of charisma on the handling of invasive species.

More and more animals and plants are being abducted by people from their distribution area – consciously and unconsciously. Most of them cannot adapt to the new living conditions, but some are firmly established. “Some alien species are becoming a problem for the native species – as predators, competitors for food and habitat, or carriers of diseases,” explains Professor Jonathan Jeschke, Researcher at the IGB and the Free University of Berlin and head of the Invasion Dynamics Network, which initiated the study Has. As an ornamental plant, aquarium dweller or exotic pet, charismatic species are introduced more often than inconspicuous species, according to the researchers. “The more frequent the introduction and the greater the number of individuals introduced, the greater the likelihood

The social acceptance of attractive invasive species with charisma is higher than that of unattractive invasive species. This can hinder nature conservation measures that are designed to curb the spread of a species: “An exterior that is perceived as beautiful or cute can make it difficult to manage species invasions because public support is often lacking,” says Ivan Jaric, lead author of the study and researcher at the Biology Center of the Czech Academy of Sciences. In Italy, for example, the program to control the invasive gray squirrel – and to protect the domestic squirrel – was prevented by interest groups with the help of cute cartoon characters.

Even research is taxonomically biased

The main areas of research on invasive species are largely determined by their ecological and economic effects. And yet there is a stronger focus on invasive vertebrates than on invertebrates as well as on large and charismatic species. “The interest of the public and also of research is disproportionately concentrated on the charismatic species. This can lead to one-sided gaps in knowledge that lead to protective measures being wrongly prioritized, ”criticizes IGB researcher Dr. Gregor Kalinkat, co-author of the study.

That is why it is important to be aware of the influence of charisma on dealing with invasive species and to raise awareness among actors. “This aspect is particularly important when planning and implementing management measures. Conflicts, especially when they concern charismatic species, can arise from the apparent incompatibility of two different ethical perspectives: between those who prioritize the protection of the ecosystem or the conservation of native species, and those who are concerned about the well-being of the invasive species in question “, Ivan Jaric underlines the importance of the results.

The study was published in Forschungsverbund Berlin eV