Evaluating the effects of landscape structure on the recovery of an invasive vertebrate after population control
Effective landscape control of invasive species is context-dependent due to the interplay between the landscape structure, local population dynamics, and metapopulation processes. We use a modelling approach incorporating these three elements to explore the drivers of recovery of populations of invasive species after control.
We aim to improve our understanding of the factors influencing the landscape-level control of invasive species.
We focus on the case study of invasive brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) control in New Zealand. We assess how 13 covariates describing the landscape, patch, and population features influence the time of population recovery to a management density threshold of two possums/ha. We demonstrate the effects of those covariates on population recovery under three scenarios of population growth: logistic growth, strong Allee effects, and weak Allee effects.
Recovery times were rapid regardless of the simulated population dynamics (average recovery time < 2 years), although populations experiencing Allee effects took longer to recover than those growing logistically. Our results indicate that habitat availability and patch area play a key role in reducing times to recovery after control, and this relationship is consistent across the three simulated scenarios.
The control of invasive possum populations in patchy landscapes would benefit from a patch-level management approach (considering each patch as an independent management unit), whereas simple landscapes would be better controlled by taking a landscape-level view (the landscape as the management unit). Future research should test the predictions of our models with empirical data to refine control operations.
KeywordsAllee effects Brushtail possum Habitat availability Landscape and patch metrics New Zealand
We thank G. Nugent and R. Pech (Manaaki Whenua—Landcare Research) for their insightful comments on possum biology and the management of invasive species. M. Barron (Manaaki Whenua—Landcare Research) read a previous version of this manuscript and provided important feedback that helped improve the manuscript. Three reviewers provided constructive comments that helped improve previous versions of this manuscript. ML is supported by the French ANR through LabEx TULIP (ANR-10-LABX-41; ANR-11-IDEX-002-02) by a Region Midi-Pyrénées Project (CNRS 121090), and by the FRAGCLIM Consolidator Grant, funded by the European Research Council under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Grant Agreement Number 726176).
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