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Am Nat. 2011 Apr;177(4):410-23. doi: 10.1086/658149.

Evolutionary game theory as a framework for studying biological invasions.

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Odum School of Ecology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA.


Although biological invasions pose serious threats to biodiversity, they also provide the opportunity to better understand interactions between the ecological and evolutionary processes structuring populations and communities. However, ecoevolutionary frameworks for studying species invasions are lacking. We propose using game theory and the concept of an evolutionarily stable strategy (ESS) as a conceptual framework for integrating the ecological and evolutionary dynamics of invasions. We suggest that the pathways by which a recipient community may have no ESS provide mechanistic hypotheses for how such communities may be vulnerable to invasion and how invaders can exploit these vulnerabilities. We distinguish among these pathways by formalizing the evolutionary contexts of the invader relative to the recipient community. We model both the ecological and the adaptive dynamics of the interacting species. We show how the ESS concept provides new mechanistic hypotheses for when invasions result in long- or short-term increases in biodiversity, species replacement, and subsequent evolutionary changes.

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