Aim We set out to develop a temperature- and salinity-dependent mechanistic population model for copepods that can be used to understand the role of environmental parameters in population growth or decline. Models are an important tool for understanding the dynamics of invasive species; our model can be used to determine an organism’s niche and explore the potential for invasion of a new habitat.
Location Strait of Georgia, British Columbia, Canada.
Methods We developed a birth rate model to determine the environmental niche for an estuarine copepod. We conducted laboratory experiments to estimate demographic parameters over a range of temperatures and salinities for Eurytemora affinis collected from the Nanaimo Estuary, British Columbia (BC). The parameterized model was then used to explore what environmental conditions resulted in population growth vs. decline. We then re-parameterized our model using previously published data for E. affinis collected in the Seine Estuary, France (SE), and compared the dynamics of the two populations.
Results We established regions in temperature–salinity space where E. affinis populations from BC would likely grow vs. decline. In general, the population from BC exhibited positive and higher intrinsic growth rates at higher temperatures and salinities. The population from SE exhibited positive and higher growth rates with increasing temperature and decreasing salinity. These different relationships with environmental parameters resulted in predictions of complex interactions among temperature, salinity and growth rates if the two subspecies inhabited the same estuary.
Main conclusions We developed a new mechanistic model that describes population dynamics in terms of temperature and salinity. This model may prove especially useful in predicting the potential for invasion by copepods transported to Pacific north-west estuaries via ballast water, or in any system where an ecosystem is subject to invasion by a species that shares demographic characteristics with an established (sub)species.