Persistence of invading gypsy moth populations in the United States
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- Whitmire, S.L. & Tobin, P.C. Oecologia (2006) 147: 230. doi:10.1007/s00442-005-0271-5
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Exotic invasive species are a mounting threat to native biodiversity, and their effects are gaining more public attention as each new species is detected. Equally important are the dynamics of exotic invasives that are previously well established. While the literature reports many examples of the ability of a newly arrived exotic invader to persist prior to detection and population growth, we focused on the persistence dynamics of an established invader, the European gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar) in the United States. The spread of gypsy moth is largely thought to be the result of the growth and coalescence of isolated colonies in a transition zone ahead of the generally infested area. One important question is thus the ability of these isolated colonies to persist when subject to Allee effects and inimical stochastic events. We analyzed the US gypsy moth survey data and identified isolated colonies of gypsy moth using the local indicator of spatial autocorrelation. We then determined region-specific probabilities of colony persistence given the population abundance in the previous year and its relationship to a suite of ecological factors. We observed that colonies in Wisconsin, US, were significantly more likely to persist in the following year than in other geographic regions of the transition zone, and in all regions, the abundance of preferred host tree species and land use category did not appear to influence persistence. We propose that differences in region-specific rates of persistence may be attributed to Allee effects that are differentially expressed in space, and that the inclusion of geographically varying Allee effects into colony-invasion models may provide an improved paradigm for addressing the establishment and spread of gypsy moth and other invasive exotic species.