Social and ecological drivers of behavior that prevents aquatic invasive species transport

Alison Moore, Danika Ford, Elizabeth Golebie, North Joffe-Nelson, Greg Hitzroth, Amanda Huegelmann, Sarah King, Jeffrey A. Stein, Carena J. van Riper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aquatic invasive species (AIS) have caused widespread damage to environmental and socio-economic systems across the globe. One vector of biological invasions is recreational boaters who are at risk of unintentionally introducing AIS when moving between freshwater ecosystems. The drivers of boater behaviors and belief systems therefore warrant careful research attention, yet surprisingly few studies have empirically tested how the ecological context of biological invasions influences the behavioral decisions of recreational boaters. We asked: What are the relationships among boater proximity to AIS, perceptions of risk and efficacy, familiarity with AIS, and engagement in AIS prevention behavior? Drawing from a survey of boaters administered across the U.S. state of Illinois, we quantified and spatially located where boaters lived and evaluated their behavioral patterns. We then combined these survey data with spatially explicit observations of AIS across four taxa, which were collated using secondary data sources. We observed high levels of perceived risks from biological invasions, strong beliefs that individuals could make a difference in minimizing the spread of AIS, and low AIS-related familiarity. Results from a structural equation path model indicated that proximity to invasive fish species, but not other types of AIS, was associated with higher risk perceptions, which in turn, influenced self-efficacy and the intended behaviors of boaters. This study offers new insights on how decision-makers can optimize their effort and direct attention toward high and low priority locations defined in both social and ecological terms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1845-1859
Number of pages15
JournalBiological Invasions
Issue number6
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


  • Human dimensions
  • Recreational boating
  • Risk perception
  • Social-ecological systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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