Exploiting Allee effects for managing biological invasions


E-mail: ptobin@fs.fed.us


Ecology Letters (2011) 14: 615–624


Biological invasions are a global and increasing threat to the function and diversity of ecosystems. Allee effects (positive density dependence) have been shown to play an important role in the establishment and spread of non-native species. Although Allee effects can be considered a bane in conservation efforts, they can be a benefit in attempts to manage non-native species. Many biological invaders are subject to some form of an Allee effect, whether due to a need to locate mates, cooperatively feed or reproduce or avoid becoming a meal, yet attempts to highlight the specific exploitation of Allee effects in biological invasions are surprisingly unprecedented. In this review, we highlight current strategies that effectively exploit an Allee effect, and propose novel means by which Allee effects can be manipulated to the detriment of biological invaders. We also illustrate how the concept of Allee effects can be integral in risk assessments and in the prioritization of resources allocated to manage non-native species, as some species beset by strong Allee effects could be less successful as invaders. We describe how tactics that strengthen an existing Allee effect or create new ones could be used to manage biological invasions more effectively.