Informed stakeholder support for managing invasive Hydrilla verticillata linked to wildlife deaths in a Southeastern reservoir
Fouts KL, Poudyal, NC, Moore R, Herrin J, Wilde, SB. 2017. Informed stakeholder support for managing invasive Hydrilla verticillata linked to wildlife deaths in a Southeastern reservoir. Lake Reserve Manage. 00:1–10.
Public opinion surveys prior to implementing management actions provide managing agencies with a detailed understanding of stakeholders' attitudes and help inform the general public on the complexity of potential management actions. Like many other Southeastern U.S. reservoirs, J. Strom Thurmond (JST), on the border of Georgia and South Carolina, has been infested with nonnative hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata). Avian Vacuolar Myelinopathy (AVM), a fatal wildlife disease linked to a neurotoxic cyanobacterial species growing on hydrilla, has been documented on this 28,733-ha reservoir since 1998, when the hydrilla acreage first exceeded 350 ha. As of 2016, 90 bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) mortalities and hundreds of waterfowl deaths have been attributed to AVM disease on JST. To assess and compare the diverse stakeholders' attitudes toward aquatic vegetation, knowledge of AVM, and support for management actions to remove hydrilla, a mail survey was conducted targeting various JST user groups (anglers, boaters, campers, waterfowl hunters, and shoreline property owners). Generally, respondents were overwhelmingly in favor of reducing hydrilla density on JST, but shoreline permit holders (homeowners) were significantly more supportive of hydrilla management than boaters. Similarly, all user groups supported management actions to remove aquatic vegetation, including stocking triploid sterile grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella). Support for removing hydrilla was found to be significantly higher among users knowledgeable of AVM, suggesting that outreach activities educating the public on the effects and prevention of the disease would help enhance stakeholder support for hydrilla removal and management in public reservoirs.