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Invasive species can have disastrous effects on the ecosystems they invade, requiring costly, labour-intensive mitigation. Public awareness campaigns are often used as a tool to reduce these species’ impacts. While heralded as useful and cost-effective, little evidence suggests that these campaigns contribute to meaningful biological outcomes. Furthermore, awareness campaigns are relatively understudied despite their usage as a common approach to mitigating invasive species. We conducted a literature review to assess publications that evaluated the efficacy of public awareness campaigns for managing invasive species. Out of 4382 papers initially extracted for analysis, we determined that 24 of them included studies conducted on awareness campaigns for invasive species. Four public awareness campaigns were deemed a ‘success’, and the other campaigns’ success was indeterminable due to study design. Our study revealed that inconsistencies in defined end points, unclear procedures and variability of campaigns contribute to there being insufficient evidence to determine the efficacy of public awareness campaigns. To evaluate the true efficacy of public awareness campaigns, we recommend that organizations conducting such campaigns implement rigorous and standardized assessments (e.g., Before–After Control–Impact designs or Bayesian analyses) that include measures of not just changes in the knowledge and behaviour of target audiences, but also relevant biological outcomes.
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