Empowered communities or "cheap labour"? Engaging volunteers in the rationalised management of invasive alien species in Great Britain

Marie Pagès, Anke Fischer, René van der Wal, Xavier Lambin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)
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Volunteers are increasingly involved in the delivery of nature conservation policies, usually supported by a twofold rationale: volunteering can (a) enhance citizen participation in environmental governance and (b) ensure a workforce is in place to support conservation work in times of budget shortages. Here, we ask how these two rationales correspond to volunteers' own motivations to engage in a specific nature conservation activity, namely the control of invasive alien species (IAS). We use qualitative interviews with professional project managers, local group leaders, and volunteers to examine the interactions between policies aiming to rationalise the management of IAS and the motivations for and goals of volunteer engagement. Our findings suggest that although volunteering can lead to positive conservation outcomes, satisfying experiences and empowerment, the different interests do not always align in practice. We investigate the implications of strategies that aim to improve the efficiency of invasive species and volunteer management, and discuss organisational arrangements that reconcile different objectives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)102-111
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Early online date9 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019

Bibliographical note

The authors would like to thank all the organisations and volunteers who participated in this study, as well as Anja Byg, Kerry Waylen, Michelle Pinard, Norman Dandy and three anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on earlier versions of this paper. We acknowledge funding by the Natural Environment Research Council and the Rivers and Fisheries Trusts of Scotland (NERC-CASE PhD scholarship 12994499) and support by the Rural & Environment Science and Analytical Services Division of the Scottish Government.


  • Journal Article
  • invasive alien species
  • grey squirrel
  • Himalayan balsam
  • American mink
  • volunteer engagement
  • neoliberalism


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