Coupling ecological and social network models to assess "transmission" and "contagion" of an aquatic invasive species.
Network analysis is used to address diverse ecological, social, economic, and epidemiological questions, but few efforts have been made to combine these field-specific analyses into interdisciplinary approaches that effectively address how complex systems are interdependent and connected to one another. Identifying and understanding these cross-boundary connections improves natural resource management and promotes proactive, rather than reactive, decisions. This research had two main objectives; first, adapt the framework and approach of infectious disease network modeling so that it may be applied to the socio-ecological problem of spreading aquatic invasive species, and second, use this new coupled model to simulate the spread of the invasive Chinese mystery snail (Bellamya chinensis) in a reservoir network in Southeastern Nebraska, USA. The coupled model integrates an existing social network model of how anglers move on the landscape with new reservoir-specific ecological network models. This approach allowed us to identify (1) how angler movement among reservoirs aids in the spread of B. chinensis, (2) how B. chinensis alters energy flows within individual-reservoir food webs, and (3) a new method for assessing the spread of any number of non-native or invasive species within complex, social-ecological systems.