Phenotypic heterogeneity and biological invasions

Ecological invasions are a major threat to biodiversity and an important element of global change with major economic and ecological costs. Invasions occur when a species introduced to areas beyond its native range spreads from the point of introduction, becomes abundant and have large negative impacts on native species. The management of invasive species is one of the major challenges in modern ecology. One classical approach is to identify characteristics that predispose a species to become a successful invader. This approach has however had only limited success in the predictability of invasion success. We have been studying a new solution to this problem coming through the recognition of within-species variation in phenotypic traits and its influence in eco-evolutionary processes. Indeed, intraspecific variations has been shown to influence invasion dynamics and success. The general hypothesis is various phenotypes are better at different stages of invasion, e.g. some individuals being better invaders than others (asocial individuals, high dispersal rates) and some other individuals better at building high density (social individuals, high reproductive rates). We study the consequences of phenotypic heterogeneity on population, invasion rates and on the functioning of native communities and ecosystems using empircal approaches with different species and modeling approaches.

Collaborators: A. Sih, T. Brodin, S. Fogarty, S. Blanchet, J. Cucherousset

Project status: Still going on

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