Multi-scale analysis of species introductions: combining landscape and demographic models to improve management decisions about non-native species


  • Kerry A. Brown,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology, Columbia University, 1200 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10027, USA;
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    • Current address: Division of Science and Mathematics, University of the Virgin Islands, St Thomas, USVI 00802.

  • Sacha Spector,

    1. Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West, New York, NY 10024, USA; and
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  • Wei Wu

    1. Department of Environmental Studies, College of Environmental Science & Forestry, State University of New York, 1 Forestry Drive, Syracuse, NY, 13210 USA
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    • Current address: Department of Coastal Sciences, The University of Southern Mississippi, Ocean Springs, MS 39564, USA.

*Correspondence author. E-mail:


  • 1Non-native, invasive species can affect biological patterns and processes at multiple ecological scales. The multi-scalar effects of invasions can influence community structure, ecosystem processes and function, and the nature and intensity of ecological interactions. Consequently, efforts to assess the spread of invasive species may benefit from a multi-scale analytic approach.
  • 2We analysed results from landscape- and population-scale models for Syzygium jambos, a non-native tree in the Luquillo Mountains of Puerto Rico, to demonstrate a multi-scale approach that can be used to inform management decisions about invasive plants. At the landscape-level, we used an Ecological Niche Modelling approach to predict environmentally suitable habitats for the target plant. At the population-level, we constructed matrix projection models to determine the finite rate of population increase (λ) for S. jambos. We then extrapolated λ values to the landscape-scale to obtain a distribution map of λ values for the Luquillo forest.
  • 3The landscape analyses suggested that the most environmentally suitable habitats were those most similar to where S. jambos had already been observed. The population-level analyses showed that four of the seven populations had λ values less than 1, indicating that they were projected to be below replacement. The λ distribution map showed that S. jambos growth was highest in areas where it was most common and lowest in areas where it was most rare.
  • 4Our analyses further suggested that the importance of different drivers of invasion and the environmental variables that mediate them appear to be strongly scale-dependent. Past disturbances seemed most important for controlling invasions at fine-spatial scales; while abiotic environmental variables modulated coarse-scale invasion dynamics.
  • 5Synthesis and applications. We have shown that a multi-scale analytic approach can be used to manage invasive species by simultaneously targeting susceptible life stages and rapidly growing populations in a landscape. The utility of this approach stems from an ability to: (i) map the distribution of habitats that can potentially sustain λ values above replacement; (ii) identify populations to manage or monitor during selected stages of an invasion; (iii) forecast the probability for a target species to increase above a critical threshold abundance; and (iv) set priorities for control and monitoring actions.