Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Albrecht Daniel Thaer-Institut für Agrar- und Gartenbauwissenschaften

The structure and function of angler mental models aboutfish population ecology: The influence of specialization and target species

As devotion to a recreational activity increases with specialization, recreationists' ecological understanding (i.e., mental models) of the resource system is also expected to change. To test this hypothesis, we collected cognitive maps of northern pike (Esox lucius) ecology from anglers (N¼235) and assessed their relation to anglers' level of specialization and preferred target species. We also compared angler cognitive maps with cognitive maps collected fromfisheries scientists (N¼17) to examine if increased specialization among anglers led to similar ecological understanding of formally-trainedfishery professionals. Our results indicate that, regardless of target species, as anglers become more specialized they tend to refine their structural understanding of pike ecology by simplifying relations among the ecological factors that affect pike populations. Further, although the refined ecological understanding of more specialized anglers' was found to be structurally dissimilar to experts, the mental models of pike ecology of more specialized anglers, particularly those with experience of the target species pike, were found to be functionally similar to how trainedfisheries biologists viewed pike ecology. Our results suggest that more specialized anglers develop simple heuristics to deal with complex ecological issues, which may in turn affect the uptake of information and the acceptability of management actions designed by agencies and managers