Novel application of explicit dynamics occupancy models to ongoing aquatic invasions.
Identification of suitable habitats, where invasive species can establish, is an important step towards controlling their spread. Accurate identification is difficult for new or slow invaders because unoccupied habitats may be suitable, given enough time for dispersal, while occupied habitats may prove to be unsuitable for establishment. To identify the suitable habitat of a recent invader, I used an explicit dynamics occupancy modelling framework to evaluate habitat covariates related to successful and failed establishments of American Bullfrogs (Lithobates catesbeianus) within the Yellowstone River floodplain of Montana, USA, from 2012 to 2016. During this 5-year period, bullfrogs failed to establish at most sites they colonized. Bullfrog establishment was most likely to occur and least likely to fail at sites closest to human-modified ponds and lakes and those with emergent vegetation. These habitat covariates were generally associated with the presence of permanent water. Suitable habitat for bullfrog establishment is abundant in the Yellowstone River floodplain, although many sites with suitable habitat remain uncolonized. Thus, the maximum distribution of bullfrogs is much greater than their current distribution. Synthesis and applications. Focused control efforts on habitats with or proximate to permanent waters are most likely to reduce the potential for invasive bullfrog establishment and spread in the Yellowstone River. The novel application of explicit dynamics occupancy models is a useful and widely applicable tool for guiding management efforts towards those habitats where new or slow invaders are most likely to establish and persist.