Special Feature: Review Allee Effects: Mating and Invasion

Population Ecology

, Volume 51, Issue 3, pp 373-384

First online:

The role of Allee effects in gypsy moth, Lymantria dispar (L.), invasions

  • Patrick C. TobinAffiliated withForest Service, United States Department of Agriculture, Northern Research Station Email author 
  • , Christelle RobinetAffiliated withINRA
  • , Derek M. JohnsonAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of Louisiana
  • , Stefanie L. WhitmireAffiliated withDepartment of Agronomy and Soils, University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez
  • , Ottar N. BjørnstadAffiliated withDepartments of Entomology and Biology, Pennsylvania State University
  • , Andrew M. LiebholdAffiliated withForest Service, United States Department of Agriculture, Northern Research Station

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Allee effects have been applied historically in efforts to understand the low-density population dynamics of rare and endangered species. Many biological invasions likewise experience the phenomenon of decreasing population growth rates at low population densities because most founding populations of introduced nonnative species occur at low densities. In range expansion of established species, the initial colonizers of habitat beyond the organism’s current range are usually at low density, and thus could be subject to Allee dynamics. There has been consistent empirical and theoretical evidence demonstrating, and in some cases quantifying, the role of Allee dynamics in the gypsy moth, Lymantria dispar (L.), invasion of North America. In this review, we examine the potential causes of the Allee effect in the gypsy moth and highlight the importance of mate-finding failure as a primary mechanism behind an Allee effect, while the degree to which generalist predators induce an Allee effect remains unclear. We then explore the role of Allee effects in the establishment and spread dynamics of the gypsy moth system, which conceptually could serve as a model system for understanding how Allee effects manifest themselves in the dynamics of biological invasions.


Biological invasions Establishment Invasion dynamics Nonindigenous species Spread