Modeling the impacts of life-history traits, canopy gaps, and establishment location on woodland shrub invasions.
We used an individual-based model to identify how localized patterns of woodland invasions by exotic shrubs are likely influenced by (1) observed variation in age at first reproduction and fecundity, (2) hypothesized effects of canopy gaps on these life-history traits and dispersal, and (3) initial establishment location. Rates of spread accelerated nearly twofold as age at first reproduction decreased from eight to three years or fecundity increased from 3 to 20 offspring per year, illustrating the need to better understand the factors that influence these life-history traits. Canopy gaps facilitated spread by influencing these life-history traits, but not through their effects on dispersal. Invasions starting at the woodland center spread more rapidly than do those starting along the woodland edge. These findings suggest that managers should not only prioritize the removal of shrubs that reproduce the earliest or produce the most offspring, but they should also focus on the invasions in woodlands with high canopy openness and/or that are located in woodland interiors. Investigated factors also affected other invasion characteristics, often in surprising ways. For example, those changes in age at first reproduction and fecundity that increased the rate of spread produced nonparallel patterns of change in the proportions of invasion reproducing, whether or not invasions exhibited clumped or scattered spatial arrangements, and invasional lag. Additionally, canopy gaps influenced these characteristics by increasing fecundity, but not by decreasing age at first reproduction or altering dispersal, suggesting that canopy gaps affect local patterns of exotic-shrub invasions primarily through their positive effects on fruit production.