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Perceptions of impact: Invasive alien plants in the urban environment.


Many alien plant species are introduced to urban areas to create, augment or restore ecosystem services (ES). However, many of these species spread beyond original plantings, sometimes causing negative effects on existing ES or creating novel ecosystem disservices (EDS). An understanding of the perceptions of urban residents regarding invasive alien plants (IAPs) and the ES and EDS they provide is needed for the effective prioritisation of IAP management efforts in cities. Using the city of Cape Town, South Africa as a case study, we conducted questionnaire-based surveys (online and face-to-face) to determine the perceptions of urban residents regarding IAPs and their capacity to provide ES and EDS. Most urban residents perceive IAPs negatively (i.e. agreeing that they create EDS), but many recognise their importance in providing ES. Although most residents are not opposed to the management of IAPs, such actions are not perceived as a high priority relative to other environmental problems. Socio-demographic variables such as age, education, environmental awareness, and ethnicity shape urban residents' perceptions of IAPs. Older, more educated respondents were more likely to perceive IAPs negatively, while respondents with greater environmental awareness were aware of the benefits provided by IAPs. This study highlights the need to integrate public perceptions into the planning and management of IAPs and emphasises the importance of including ES assessments into the decision-making process, particularly in urban areas. Copyright © 2018 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.