Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Scale invariance in the spatial-dynamics of biological invasions.

Abstract

Despite the enormous negative consequences of biological invasions, we have a limited understanding of how spatial demography during invasions creates population patterns observed at different spatial scales. Early stages of invasions, arrival and establishment, are considered distinct from the later stage of spread, but the processes of population growth and dispersal underlie all invasion phases. Here, we argue that the spread of invading species, to a first approximation, exhibits scale invariant spatial-dynamic patterns that transcend multiple spatial scales. Dispersal from a source population creates smaller satellite colonies, which in turn act as sources for secondary invasions; the scale invariant pattern of coalescing colonies can be seen at multiple scales. This self-similar pattern is referred to as "stratified diffusion" at landscape scales and the "bridgehead effect" at the global scale. The extent to which invasions exhibit such scale-invariant spatial dynamics may be limited by the form of the organisms' dispersal kernel and by the connectivity of the habitat. Recognition of this self-similar pattern suggests that certain concepts for understanding and managing invasions might be widely transferable across spatial scales.