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Keywords:

  • Attribution of responsibility;
  • conservation management;
  • invasive species;
  • public action;
  • risk perception

Abstract

Invasive species may be viewed as “passengers” that spread in response to environmental changes rather than “drivers” of ecological impacts. To date, however, there has been no examination of how these alternative models affect public risk perception, sense of responsibility, and willingness to take action. We report on an experimental study of how these models affected respondents’ (N = 456) willingness to take action to address two invasive species: tamarisk and garlic mustard. We found that the traditional driver model, compared to the passenger model, increased perception of risk to humans and the environment, both of which contributed to willingness to take action. The driver model, however, also decreased personal causal responsibility, though only when human responsibility for introduction was not mentioned. Our findings suggest that these alternative models create trade-offs for communication that necessitate contextual framing that attends to audience sense of risk and responsibility.