Range expansion in an invasive small mammal: influence of life-history and habitat quality

White, Thomas ; Lundy, Mathieu ; Montgomery, W. ; Montgomery, Sally ; Perkins, Sarah ; Lawton, Colin ; Meehan, John ; Hayden, Tom ; Heckel, Gerald ; Reid, Neil ; Searle, Jeremy

In: Biological Invasions, 2012, vol. 14, no. 10, p. 2203-2215

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    Invasive species pose a major threat to biodiversity but provide an opportunity to describe the processes that lead to changes in a species' range. The bank vole (Myodes glareolus) is an invasive rodent that was introduced to Ireland in the early twentieth century. Given its continuing range expansion, the substantial empirical data on its spread thus far, and the absence of any eradication program, the bank vole in Ireland represents a unique model system for studying the mechanisms influencing the rate of range expansion in invasive small mammals. We described the invasion using a reaction-diffusion model informed by empirical data on life history traits and demographic parameters. We subsequently modelled the processes involved in its range expansion using a rule-based spatially explicit simulation. Habitat suitability interacted with density-dependent parameters to influence dispersal, most notably the density at which local populations started to donate emigrating individuals, the number of dispersing individuals and the direction of dispersal. Whilst local habitat variability influenced the rate of spread, on a larger scale the invasion resembled a simple reaction-diffusion process. Our results suggest a Type 1 range expansion where the rate of expansion is generally constant over time, but with some evidence for a lag period following introduction. We demonstrate that a two-parameter empirical model and a rule-based spatially explicit simulation are sufficient to accurately describe the invasion history of a species that exhibits a complex, density-dependent pattern of dispersal