Outbreak of an undetected invasive species triggered by a climate anomaly
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When an invasive species appears at a new location, we typically have no knowledge of the population dynamics leading up to that moment. Is the establishment of invasive propagules closely followed by the appearance of the population? Or alternatively, was there an established low-density population that was released from a constraint and crossed the detection threshold? The early stages of the invasion process are a critical gap in our knowledge, yet vitally important for the detection and management of invasions. Here, we present multiple lines of evidence supporting the lag scenario for an invasive species outbreak. The invasive predatory zooplankton, spiny water flea (Bythotrephes longimanus), was detected in Lake Mendota, Wisconsin (USA), in summer of 2009 and rapidly reached and sustained exceptionally high densities. To evaluate whether Bythotrephes' outbreak immediately followed introduction or erupted from an established low-density population, we constructed a population model of Bythotrephes in Lake Mendota. In the model, Bythotrephes persisted indefinitely at low levels until favorable thermal conditions in 2009, the coolest July since at least 1895, allowed it to erupt to high densities and establish a large egg bank in the lake sediments. The egg bank stabilized the population in the high-density state despite a return to nonfavorable thermal conditions, which is further supported by demographic data suggesting a constant contribution from the egg bank during the year. The prolonged lag scenario is corroborated by the detection of two individual Bythotrephes in pre-2009 archived samples, and the detection of Bythotrephes spines in lake sediment core layers dating back to 1994 (±5 yr). Together, our results suggest that Bythotrephes persisted for at least a decade below the detection limit, until optimal thermal conditions triggered a population outbreak. This work highlights the potential for environmental conditions to trigger invasive species outbreaks from low-density populations.
© The Author(s), 2016. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License. The definitive version was published in Ecosphere 7 (2016): e01628, doi:10.1002/ecs2.1628.
Suggested CitationEcosphere 7 (2016): e01628
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