Reconstructing biological invasions using public surveys: a new approach to retrospectively assess spatio-temporal changes in invasive spread

Abstract

Management of biological invasions increasingly relies on the knowledge of invasive species’ dispersal pathways that operate during introduction and post-introduction dispersal. However, the early stages of biological invasions (introduction, establishment, and initial spread) are usually poorly documented, limiting our understanding of post-introduction dispersal and the role of humans in invasive spread. We aim to assess a new approach to retrospectively understand spatio-temporal patterns of introduction, establishment, dispersal, and spread in biological invasions, using the case study of an ongoing invasion of the Indian bullfrog (Hoplobatachus tigerinus) on the Andaman archipelago, Bay of Bengal. We sampled 91 villages on eight human inhabited islands of the Andaman archipelago from 2015 to 2016. We assessed the occurrence of the bullfrog using visual encounter surveys and recorded the invasion history (year of establishment, source site, and dispersal pathway) for each site by surveying 892 key informants (farmers, plantation workers, and aqua-culturists). We sought to corroborate the reconstructed invasion history with false positive occupancy modelling, using site specific covariates that corresponded to hypotheses on specific dispersal pathways. The bullfrog occurred in at least 62% of the sampled sites spread over six islands, a dramatic increase to the previously known invaded range. The bullfrog was most likely introduced in early 2000s, and its exponential expansion has occurred since 2009. ‘Contaminants’ of fish culture trade and intentional ‘release’ were reported to be the primary pathways of introduction and post-introduction dispersal, facilitating introductions from the Indian mainland and inter-island transfers. False-positive occupancy modelling confirmed that three sites on the archipelago influenced the invasion disproportionately by acting as dispersal hubs. The study elucidates the efficacy of using public surveys to identify dispersal pathways and hubs, and to understand invasive spread, when such information is typically unavailable otherwise. The proposed approach is scalable to other systems and species.

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Data availability statement

The data used in this paper has been submitted to a standard data repository (http://www.datadryad.org/).

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology (CIB) and approved by the Human Research (Humanities) Ethics committee of Stellenbosch University (SU-HSD-003771). We would like to thank, the Department of Environment and Forests, Andaman and Nicobar Islands for Granting permits (#CWLW/WL/134/350); the Inlaks Shivdasani Foundation-Ravi Sankaran Fellowship Programme, the Rufford Small Grants (#20818-2) for funding and the Department of Botany and Zoology, Stellenbosch University for a bursary to NPM; the Andaman & Nicobar Environment Team (ANET) for facilitating field work; all the respondents for contributing to our understanding of the subject; Sachin Anand, Saw Isaac, Bipin Tirkey for collecting part of the data, and Suresh Kujur for help during field work; Prof. David M Richardson, Dr. Ana Novoa, Susan Canavan, and Sahir Advani for feedback on the manuscript; Dr. Kevin Smith and two anonymous referees for constructive criticism which improved the manuscript. NPM would like to acknowledge the support and advice of Dr. Karthikeyan Vasudevan, Dr. Manish Chandi, and Harikrishnan S. during the study.

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NPM and JM conceived the idea of the study; NPM collected the data; NPM and JM analysed the data; NPM wrote the manuscript, JM contributed to the writing.

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Correspondence to Nitya Prakash Mohanty.

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Mohanty, N.P., Measey, J. Reconstructing biological invasions using public surveys: a new approach to retrospectively assess spatio-temporal changes in invasive spread. Biol Invasions 21, 467–480 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-018-1839-4

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Keywords

  • Amphibia
  • Andaman Islands
  • Dispersal pathway
  • False positive
  • Hoplobatrachus tigerinus
  • Key informant survey