Models of species' demographic features are commonly used to understand population dynamics and inform management tactics. Hierarchical demographic models are ideal for the assessment of non-indigenous species because our knowledge of non-indigenous populations is usually limited, data on demographic traits often come from a species' native range, these traits vary among populations, and traits are likely to vary considerably over time as species adapt to new environments. Hierarchical models readily incorporate this spatiotemporal variation in species' demographic traits by representing demographic parameters as multi-level hierarchies. As is done for traditional non-hierarchical matrix models, sensitivity and elasticity analyses are used to evaluate the contributions of different life stages and parameters to estimates of population growth rate. We applied a hierarchical model to northern snakehead (Channa argus), a fish currently invading the eastern United States. We used a Monte Carlo approach to simulate uncertainties in the sensitivity and elasticity analyses and to project future population persistence under selected management tactics. We gathered key biological information on northern snakehead natural mortality, maturity and recruitment in its native Asian environment. We compared the model performance with and without hierarchy of parameters. Our results suggest that ignoring the hierarchy of parameters in demographic models may result in poor estimates of population size and growth and may lead to erroneous management advice. In our case, the hierarchy used multi-level distributions to simulate the heterogeneity of demographic parameters across different locations or situations. The probability that the northern snakehead population will increase and harm the native fauna is considerable. Our elasticity and prognostic analyses showed that intensive control efforts immediately prior to spawning and/or juvenile-dispersal periods would be more effective (and probably require less effort) than year-round control efforts. Our study demonstrates the importance of considering the hierarchy of parameters in estimating population growth rate and evaluating different management strategies for non-indigenous invasive species. ?? 2009 Elsevier B.V.
Additional publication details
Hierarchical demographic approaches for assessing invasion dynamics of non-indigenous species: An example using northern snakehead (Channa argus)