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Researchers help design incentive programs to rid South America of invasive beaver

Jan. 12, 2016 – North American beavers have wiped out 30 percent of forests along rivers and streams in Tierra del Fuego, a remote archipelago at the southern tip of South America, causing the greatest landscape change to these fragile forests in the last 10,000 years.

It’s no surprise, then, that the governments of Chile and Argentina want the invasive beavers gone. But eradicating them has proven to be difficult, researchers found, because it requires the participation of every single landowner in the area.

“Payment programs help, but getting all landowners on board is the crux of this and many other invasive species eradication programs around the world, which is why we wanted to study landowner preferences in this far-flung island chain on the other side of the world,” said Michael Sorice, assistant professor of outdoor recreation and human dimensions in Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.

The team’s research, published in the November issue of Global Environmental Change, found that landowners in Tierra del Fuego were willing to participate in a beaver removal program designed around the landowners’ unique interests. Specifically, participation increased under three conditions: increased payments, increased expectations of program success, and, surprisingly, low requirements for landowner involvement in the eradication efforts.

“Based on previous research about ranchers’ values, we expected landowners to express their desire to maintain their independence by hunting beavers themselves,” said Anna Santo, who earned her master’s degree in forestry at Virginia Tech in May 2015 and is lead author of the paper. “Instead, landowners preferred a program that would allow the program managers to have access and complete control over beaver eradication on private land.”  (continue reading...........)

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