Highly Variable Spread Rates in Replicated Biological Invasions: Fundamental Limits to Predictability

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Science  18 Sep 2009:
Vol. 325, Issue 5947, pp. 1536-1539
DOI: 10.1126/science.1176138


Although mean rates of spread for invasive species have been intensively studied, variance in spread rates has been neglected. Variance in spread rates can be driven exogenously by environmental variability or endogenously by demographic or genetic stochasticity in reproduction, survival, and dispersal. Endogenous variability is likely to be important in spread but has not been studied empirically. We show that endogenously generated variance in spread rates is remarkably high between replicated invasions of the flour beetle Tribolium castaneum in laboratory microcosms. The observed variation between replicate invasions cannot be explained by demographic stochasticity alone, which indicates inherent limitations to predictability in even the simplest ecological settings.

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