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Am Nat. 2006 Dec;168(6):769-83. Epub 2006 Oct 18.

Metapopulation dynamics and biological invasions: a spatially explicit model applied to a freshwater snail.

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  • 1Department of Ecology and Evolution, Biology Building, University of Lausanne, 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland.


The spatial spread of invading organisms is a major contemporary concern. We focus here on invasions in inherently fragmented habitats, such as freshwater systems, and explore the usefulness of metapopulation models in this context. Maximum-likelihood methods allow the estimation of colonization and extinction rates, as functions of habitat patch sizes and positions, from time series of presence/absence data. This framework also provides confidence intervals of these estimates and hypotheses tests. We analyze a previously unpublished 12-year survey of the spread of the introduced snail Tarebia granifera in 47 Martinican rivers. Simple metapopulation models reproduce with reasonable accuracy several quantitative aspects of the invasion, including regional abundance, spatiotemporal structure, and site-by-site colonization dates. Sensitivity analysis reveals that the invasion sequence depended strongly on metapopulation size (number of sites) and spatial structure (distances among sites). The invasion history has also been accelerated by stochastic events, as illustrated by a large, central river that happened to be colonized very early and served as an invasion pool. Finally, we discuss the benefits of this approach for the understanding of invasions in fragmented landscapes.

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