DOI: 10.1007/s10144-009-0148-2

Early warning signals of demographic regime shifts in invading populations

1. Faculty of Science, Toho University

Correspondence to:
Gaku Takimoto
Email: gaku@bio.sci.toho-u.ac.jp

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Abstract

The Allee effect can cause alternative stable states in population abundance of invasive species. Sudden eruption of invading populations from low to high abundance may be viewed as a regime shift from one alternative state to another. Previous research proposed several types of early warning signals to predict regime shifts in ecological systems such as polluted lakes and semiarid grasslands. This paper explores theoretically the potential of such indicators in predicting demographic regime shifts of invading populations. I analyzed a stochastic differential equation model for the population dynamics of an invasive species subject to Allee effects and propagule pressure. Diffusion approximation to the stochastic model suggests that persistent propagule pressure makes demographic regime shifts inevitable, but Allee effects can lengthen the mean time until regime shifts virtually indefinitely. To compare the potential of indicators, I examined standard deviation, skewness, and estimated return rates of longitudinal population abundance. I found that standard deviation showed a distinct increase as regime shifts became more likely, but skewness and return rates showed no clear trends. This result suggests that standard deviation might be a useful warning signal for forecasting an impending demographic regime shift of invading populations during the period when their abundance is still low.

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