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When higher carrying capacities lead to faster propagation

By Marjorie Haond, Thibaut Morel-Journel, Eric Lombaert, Elodie Vercken, Ludovic Mailleret, Lionel Roques

Posted 25 Apr 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/307322

Finding general patterns in the expansion of natural populations is a major challenge in ecology and invasion biology. Classical spatio-temporal models predict that the carrying capacity (K) of the environment should have no influence on the speed (v) of an expanding population. We tested the generality of this statement with reaction-diffusion equations, stochastic individual-based models, and microcosms experiments with Trichogramma chilonis wasps. We investigated the dependence between K and v under different assumptions: null model (Fisher-KPP-like assumptions), strong Allee effects, and positive density-dependent dispersal. These approaches led to similar and complementary results. Strong Allee effects, positive density-dependent dispersal and demographic stochasticity in small populations lead to a positive dependence between K and v. A positive correlation between carrying capacity and propagation speed might be more frequent than previously expected, and be the rule when individuals at the edge of a population range are not able to fully drive the expansion.

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