A dynamic energy budget model to describe the reproduction and growth of invasive starfish Asterias amurensis in southeast Australia.
The introduction of alien species is a global phenomenon that alters ecosystems structure and functioning. Invasive species are responsible for substantial economic and ecological losses. Invasive species impact resource availability, outcompeting and even causing extinction of native species. The management of invasive species requires knowledge on the ecology, physiology and population dynamics of these species. In a world where environmental conditions are changing fast due to global climate change and other anthropogenic stressors, a more comprehensive knowledge of the life history and physiology of these species is urgently needed. The DEB theory is unique in capturing the metabolic processes of an organism through its entire life cycle, and thus, is a useful tool to model lifetime feeding, growth, reproduction, and responses to changes in biotic and abiotic conditions. In this work, we estimated the parameters of a DEB model for Asterias amurensis. This starfish was introduced in Tasmania and is considered the most serious marine pest in Australia where it has caused local extinctions of several species. Asterias amurensis is a major predator and is a keystone species exerting top-down control of its prey populations by achieving large densities. We determined the influence of biotic and abiotic factors on the performance of A. amurensis. The DEB model presented here includes energy handling rules to describe gonad and pyloric caeca cycles. Model parameters were used to explore population dynamics of populations of A. amurensis in Australia. The DEB model allowed us to characterise the ecophysiology of A. amurensis, providing new insights on the role of food availability and temperature on its life cycle and reproduction strategy. Moreover it is a powerful tool for risk management of already established invasive populations and of regions with a high invasion risk.