IS SPREAD OF INVASIVE SPECIES REGULATED? USING ECOLOGICAL THEORY TO INTERPRET STATISTICAL ANALYSIS

Authors


  • Corresponding Editor: B. E. Kendall.

Abstract

We investigate a recent proposal that invasive species display patterns of spatial “spread regulation” analogous to density-dependent regulation of population abundances. While invasive species do offer valuable tests of ecological theories about spatial spread, we argue that the statistical approach used in the study is not useful, and that the proposed definition of “spread regulation” is likely to be confusing. While concepts of negative feedbacks in spatial spread may be reasonable, the proposed definition of “spread regulation” encompasses accelerating, constant, or decelerating spread. There is no compelling biological or practical reason to adopt such a definition. Moreover, we show that the statistical patterns (from time series of ratios of newly to recently invaded sites) proposed as evidence of spread regulation are predictable from basic diffusion models or other common models of constant spread with some stochasticity in dynamics and/or observations. Because such a wide range of processes would generate the observed patterns, no clear biological conclusions emerge from the proposed approach to spread analysis. When regarded in the context of the impacts and management of invasive species, the proposed regulation concept has the potential to create costly misunderstandings.

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