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Modelling pest dynamics under uncertainty in pest detection: the case of the red palm weevil


A common complication in invasive pest management is that the infectious state of the host can be wrongly assessed, leading to biases in the estimation of the prevalence of the pest and on the efficacy of mitigation actions. We designed a multievent model that accommodates uncertainty on host state to investigate the dynamics of the infestation of Phoenix canariensis by the invasive Rhynchophorus ferrugineus. Since 2011, the council of Palma city (Mallorca Island, Spain) applied preventive, curative and destructive treatments to public Phoenix palms. A year later awareness campaigns focused on every palm owner in an attempt to control the plague. We estimated the probability of infestation and assessed the efficiency of mitigation measures, awareness campaigns and palm-dependent covariates. Our results show that infestation probabilities were higher for palms infested in the previous year than for healthy palms and it decreased substantially over time as a results of mitigation measures and awareness campaigns. Palms surrounded by treated palms had a lower probability of being infested than palms surrounded by untreated palms, i.e. private palms before awareness campaigns implementation. Our results highlight the key role of awareness campaigns and public participation for invasive species control.

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A.S.A. was supported by a ‘Vicenç Mut’ contract co-funded by the Regional Government of the Balearic Islands and the European Social Fund (PD/003/2016) and a Ramón y Cajal contract (RYC-2017- 22796) funded by the Ministerio de Ciencia, Innovación y Universidades, the Agencia Estatal de Investigación and the European Social Found (“El Fondo Social Europeo invierte en tu futuro”). G.T. thanks I. Hendriks for her support.

Author information




ASA and GT conceived the analytical framework. IG and OM designed the field protocols and collected the data. IC, SG and ASA organized the data. ASA and GT analyzed data. ASA and GT wrote the first version of this manuscript and all authors contributed to and approved the present manuscript.

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Correspondence to Ana Sanz-Aguilar.

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Sanz-Aguilar, A., Cortés, I., Gascón, I. et al. Modelling pest dynamics under uncertainty in pest detection: the case of the red palm weevil. Biol Invasions 22, 1635–1645 (2020).

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  • Biological control
  • Epidemiological models
  • Invasive pest management
  • Monitoring
  • Multievent capture-recapture
  • Rhynchophorus ferrugineus