Predicting potential distributions of invasive species: where to go from here?


  • All authors contributed equally to the paper.

Correspondence: Laure Gallien, Laboratoire d’Ecologie Alpine, CNRS UMR 5553, Université Joseph Fourier, BP 53, 38041 Grenoble Cedex 9, France.


Aim  There has been considerable recent interest in modelling the potential distributions of invasive species. However, research has developed in two opposite directions: the first, focusing on screening, utilizes phenomenological models; the second, focusing on predictions of invasion dynamics, utilizes mechanistic models. Here, we present hybrid modelling as an approach to bridge the gap and to integrate the advantages of both research directions.

Location  Global.

Methods  First, we briefly summarize the characteristics and limitations of both approaches (screening vs. understanding). Then, we review the recent developments of hybrid models, discuss their current problems and offer suggestions to improve them.

Results  Generally, hybrid models are able to combine the advantages of currently used phenomenological and mechanistic approaches. Main challenges in building hybrid models are the choices of the appropriate degree of detail and efficiency and the decision on how to connect the different sub-models. Given these challenges, we discuss the links between the phenomenological and the mechanistic model parameters, the underlying concepts of fundamental and realized niches and the problem of feedback loops between population dynamics and environmental factors.

Main conclusions  Once the above challenges have been addressed and the necessary framework has been developed, hybrid models will provide outstanding tools for overcoming past limitations and will provide the means to make reliable and robust predictions of the potential distribution of invasive species, their population dynamics and the potential outcomes of the overall invasion process.