Predicting the invasion range for a highly polyphagous and widespread forest herbivore.
Here we compare the environmental niche of a highly polyphagous forest Lepidoptera species, the winter moth (Operophtera brumata), in its native and invaded range. During the last 90 years, this European tree folivore has invaded North America in at least three regions and exhibited eruptive population behavior in both its native and invaded range. Despite its importance as both a forest and agricultural pest, neither the potential extent of this species' invaded range nor the geographic source of invading populations from its native range are known. Here we fit a climatic niche model, based on the MaxEnt algorithm, to historical records of winter moth occurrence in its native range and compare predictions of suitable distributions to records from the invaded range. We modeled this distribution using three spatial bins to overcome sampling bias for data obtained from public databases and averaged the multi-continental suitable habitat prediction. Results indicate that this species is distributed across a wide range of climates in its native range but occupies a narrower range in its invaded habitat. Furthermore, the lack of a close fit between climatic conditions in parts of its invaded range and its known native range suggests the possibility that this species has adapted to new climatic conditions during the invasion process. These models can be used to predict suitable habitats for winter moth invasions worldwide and to gain insight into possible origins of North American populations.