Native for whom: a mixed-methods literature review and synthesis to conceptualise biotic nativeness for social research in the urban context.

Published online
07 Aug 2022
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
People and Nature

Kaplan, H. & Prahalad, V. & Kendal, D.
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The idea of which species are native, based on their biogeographic origin, is central to many policies and programmes. Yet definitions are contested and the meanings of 'nativeness' are often complex and confusing for many people. For example, a plant that would be considered 'native' in Australia might have a native bioregion that is thousands of kilometres from a given garden planting. The idea of nativeness is culturally constructed and connotes different meanings in different contexts. As conservation research and practice increasingly incorporate human values and behaviours, operationalising the social dimensions of abstract ecological concepts such as nativeness is needed to generate a more holistic evidence base and improve the management of native and non-native species. We used a sequential mixed-methods systematic review approach to review and synthesise literature on people's (including general publics, gardeners, conservationists) perceptions of nativeness of species and landscapes. A meta-synthesis of qualitative research identified six dimensions that underlie people's perceptions in relation to nativeness: Belonging (a sense that there is a right or wrong place for a species to exist); human influence (the role of humans in moving species outside of their historic ranges); functional compatibility (a species' alignment with the local environment and ecology); amenity (desirable and useful features provided by a species); negative impacts (risk and manageability of detrimental impacts caused by a species); and identity (species forming part of one's place-based identity). A systematic review of the quantitative urban literature found that most research on perceptions of native and non-native species and landscapes did not operationalise nativeness in a multidimensional way, focusing predominantly on the 'Negative impacts' dimension. This may often be inadequate for meaningfully capturing people's views. Our results also highlight the need to strengthen interdisciplinarity between natural and social sciences, and for better integration of social science theories to improve the interpretability and transferability of research findings. We provide recommendations for future research that operationalises nativeness using a broader range of meanings that will inform a deeper, more nuanced understanding of the human dimensions of conservation issues, especially within the contested and briskly evolving terrain of urban greening.

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