Coastal Management Fall 2018

2018 Coastal Opinions
Invasive Species


By Isaac Araujo, Ryan O’Sullivan, Emily VanGorden, and Jia Wiebe 



The impact of invasive species on native species, ecosystems, communities has been commonly recognized for decades and now viewed as a significant part of global change (Sakai et al. 2001). Annually, invasive species cost the United States billion of dollars and affect vast acres of native environments (Glaser et al. 2012). In addition to economic impacts, invasive species have severe consequences for biodiversity. Scientist estimate that almost half of the species listed as endangered or  threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act are at risk due to the impacts of invasive species (Wilcove et al. 1998) Invasive species are found in all 50 states, with some states, such as Hawaii and Florida, more severely impacted than others (Dessoff 2000).  The majority of invasive species are introduced as a result of transport, human activity, or habitat modification that might provide new opportunities for species establishment. Invasive may appear in packing materials, shipping container or ballast. Other invasive species are imported as livestock, crops, pets, or aquaculture species and later released or escape into the environment (Pimentel et al. 2004). Over the past 40 years, the rate and risk of non-native invaders has increased enormously due to human population growth, rapid movement of people, and alteration of the environment. In addition, nations are trading materials and goods more than ever before, therefore creating opportunities for unintentional introductions (Sakai et al. 2001).

California’s extensive native fauna and flora, which was unique to the state, started to change with the arrival of Spanish settlers in 1769, who brought several plants, animals, and diseases with them (Dowell et al. 1992). In 1848, invasive plants and animals exploded and spread throughout the Central Valley due to the flood of human immigration and the discovery of gold (California Department of Fish and Wildlife, 2018). The introduction of invasive pants were likely through contaminated seed lots, imported forage, and packing materials (Novak et al. 2001). Due to California’s tempered climate and rich soils, it provides easy succession and capability for invasive species to inhabit and take over the environment.

Lionfish is an example of invasive species because they are native to the Indian ocean waters (NOAA. 2018). However, scientists tell us that they have been transported to various illegal aquariums then released into the Atlantic Ocean for over a decade now (National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. 2018) Since, they didn’t have nearly as many predators here in the Atlantic, they would eat many native plants and fishes and put them close to extinction (NOAA. 2018).

Invasive species are important for the world to be aware of because it puts native and unique species and critical human resources at risk. There are several invasive species that put human health into risk also. For example, there are certain plant called Giant hogweed that is commonly found in hiking areas like forests and grasslands, that can cause serious burn and irritation (Ackerman. 2018). In addition, there are economic factors that we have to take into account; the cost of controlling,  restoring, and prevention efforts (Glaser et al. 2012). One thing to notice is the cost of the damage that invasive species have on native species, if not attempted to be controlled, removed, or prevented, the cost is far more impairment in the long run.


Overview of Current Situation

Invasive species are one of the many underestimated problems within the realm of environmental issues. Many of these species are often overlooked by the general public and can sometimes be misinterpreted as part of the natural environment. Across the planet the balance of prestein environments are under siege by non-native species. These species are introduced to these environments through human interaction and can fundamentally damage a habitat past the breaking point.

The public opinion poll questions that we selected helped us understand how the local population feels about invasive species and more importantly how much they know about the impact of these species on ecosystems in southern California.

As a group we believe that the local population does know that invasive species and also know that they may cause changes to local habitats. However we also think that generally people do not prioritize invasive species as a serious issue. Throughout our analysis of the statistics we have received our goal is to distinguish why invasive species are not a serious concern to the public.


Hypothesis 1: People are concerned about invasive species in the California coast.

Hypothesis 2: People are unaware and uneducated about invasive species in the California.



  1. When it comes to environmental issues, my views are generally?
  2. The health of California’s coastal ocean is better now than in 1950s?
  3. California’s marine fisheries are healthier and more abundant now than in the 1950s?
  4. Global Climate Change is a major problem we need to address now?
  5. How much of a threat to California’s coastal areas (beaches, oceans, estuaries, etc) are the following: (please rank theses options from 1 through 4; with 1=greatest and 4=lowest threat)



Question 1:
In this graph, we asked people of the coast, what are their general political views when it comes to environmental issue? Our data states that most people who live in the Ventura County typically have a more moderate political view on our environmental issue. Most also see a liberal point of view. There is 34 percent of the people have a moderate standpoint and 30 percent have a liberal standpoint. The remainder of the percentage puts 16 percentage at very liberal, 12 percent at no opinion, 10 percent conservation, 4 percent very conservative.  


Question 2 & Question 3: 

In this figure above, 1,333 people answered question 2 and 3 regarding the health comparison of California’s coastal oceans from the 1950s to present. 21% agree that California’s coastal oceans are healthier than in the 1950s. 48% of the general public disagree  that California beaches are healthier compared in the 1950s. 33% were not sure of the health status of California’s coastal oceans. For question 20, 1,333 people answered regarding the comparison of California’s fisheries from the 1950s to now. 14% agree that California’s fisheries are better than in the 1950s, 36% disagree, and 47% were not sure.   

Question 4:

In the graph above, 1,367 of the general public answered Question 4 about Global Climate Change being a problem. 89% strongly agree climate change is a problem. However, 8% disagree and 8% were not sure about climate change being an issue.

Question 5:

Question 5 discussed four main groups that are a threat to California’s coast; pollution, exotic plants/animals, excessive hunting/fishing, and habitat fragmentation. 1,367 people answered Question 14 in a form of ranking each threat from a scale of 1 to 4 (1 the highest threat and 4 being the lowest threat). Pollution had the lowest average of 1.67, exotic or invasive species had the highest average at 3.08. Both excessive harvesting and habitat destruction were relatively close with excessive harvesting coming in at 2.7 and habitat destruction averaged 2.22. Once all of these were added up we could then find the percentage of how the general population viewed each threat. In other words, the percentages can show how much of the population cares about a certain threat. Pollution had the highest average at 83%, whereas exotic plants and animals had the lowest at 68%. Excessive hunting and habitat fragmentation came in just above exotic plants and animals with excessive hunting having a percentage of 72% and habitat destruction coming in at 77%. Surprisingly, there was only 9% separating exotic plants and animals, excessive hunting and fishing, and habitat destruction and fragmentation.



The public opinion polls are an effective way to measure a large population of people over the tri-county area. The surveys cover a broad range of environmental issues that allows different groups to focus in on certain topics. Our group was tasked with identifying if people know what invasive species are and if people know how they influence ecosystems. When we looked into the opinion polls we hypothesized that people knew what invasive species were and also knew that they can be hyper-competitive and destroy ecological communities, however, the general public would prioritize other environmental issues before invasive species threats. After looking at the data we have collected we have determined that this is relatively true.

Our first chart shows our voter demographics. This question was used to better understand how certain populations might view the seriousness of invasive species. As a research group, we were looking for any trends that might stand out. We learned that just under half the people we surveyed tended to be more liberal. The left generally votes to protect natural resources. There were also a large number of moderate voters. When added together they make up almost 90% of all of the people we surveyed. If we then look at the statistics revolving a question the severity of climate change we found that 89% of people thought climate change was a serious issue.

When addressing how California has managed its coast and fisheries we decided to combine the two questions into one graph to show the correlation between fisheries. Fisheries can play a huge role in determining the spread of invasive species. If a species is removed past a certain point there is a good chance that a new non-native species will take its place. In the chart above the blue represents the percentages addressing the health of California’s ocean and coastal health. The orange represents the responses to the health of California’s fisheries. Most of the people who took the survey thought that ocean and fishery health had either not improved or did not know of any significant changes over the past sixty-plus years. This shows that the public has either, a lack of confidence in the way California is handling these marine resources or is unsure about the steps California has made to protect these resources.

When analyzing how people ranked threats that face California’s coastal areas we found that the pollution, excessive harvesting, and habitat destruction consistently ranked higher than exotic and invasive species. However, there was not a huge margin of difference between the bottom three categories. We saw that the vast majority of the people who took the surveys focused most of their attention on pollution. However, invasive species did not rank very far behind the other two categories. We have interpreted this as the general public acknowledges that invasive species are a threat to California’s ecosystems, yet do not think prioritize them above pollution or other serious environmental issues.

 Key Takeaway:

The key takeaway from our research is that although people acknowledge invasive species are they generally do not prioritize them as a more significant issue than pollution or habitat destruction.



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Anderson, Sean. 2012. Public perceptions of coastal resources in southern California. Urban

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California Department of Fish and Wildlife. 2018. Native Plants and Invasive Species. California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Dessoff. Alan. 2000. U.S. GAO: Invasive Species a Serious Threat. Water Environment and Technology. Vol 12. Iss 12. p 20-21. JSTOR.

Dowell. Robert, V., and Krass. Conrad, J. 1992. On the California Border, Exotic Pests Pose Growing Problem for California. California Agriculture. Vol 46. Iss 1. p 6-12.

Glaser. Aviva., and Glick. Patty. 2012. Preventing a Growing Risk: Addressing the Invasive Potential of Bioenergy Feedstocks. Wildlife Society Bulletin. Vol 36. Issue 2. p 389-391. JSTOR.

National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. 2018. Creature Feature: Lionfish. National Marine Sanctuary Foundation.

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