Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 1756
Title: Population dynamics and control of invasive Spartina alterniflora: inference and forecasting under uncertainty
Author: E. Buhle, Blake E. Feist, R. Hilborn
Publication Year: 2011
Journal: Ecological Applications
Volume: 22
Issue: 3
Pages: 880-893
Keywords: Allee effect, Bayesian decision analysis, climate effects, DIC, invasion control, smooth cordgrass, Spartina alterniflora, threshold,

Managing invaded ecosystems entails making decisions about control strategies in the face of scientific uncertainty and ecological stochasticity.  Statistical tools such as model selection and Bayesian decision analysis can guide decision-making by estimating probabilities of outcomes under alternative management scenarios, but these tools have seldom been applied in invasion ecology.  We illustrate the use of model selection and Bayesian methods in a case study of smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) invading Willapa Bay, Washington.  To address uncertainty in model structure, we quantified the weight of evidence for two previously proposed hypotheses, that S. alterniflora recruitment varies with climatic conditions (represented by sea surface temperature) and that recruitment is subject to an Allee effect due to pollen limitation.  By fitting models to time series data, we found strong support for climate effects, with higher per capita seedling production in warmer years, but no evidence for an Allee effect based on either the total area invaded or the mean distance between neighboring clones.  We used the best-supported model to compare alternative control strategies, incorporating uncertainty in parameter estimates and population dynamics.  For a fixed annual removal effort, the probability of eradication in 10 years was highest, and final invaded area lowest, if removals targeted the smallest clones rather than the largest or randomly selected clones.  The relationship between removal effort and probability of eradication was highly nonlinear, with a sharp threshold separating ∼0% and ∼100% probability of success, and this threshold was 95% lower in simulations beginning early rather than late in the invasion.  This advantage of a rapid response strategy is due to density-dependent population growth, which produces alternative stable equilibria depending on the initial invasion size when control begins.  Our approach could be applied to a wide range of invasive species management problems where appropriate data are available.

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