An ecological invasion mimics a drunken walk

ScienceDaily | 1/9/2017 | Staff
abbycraig (Posted by) Level 3
The ability to predict the movement of an ecological invasion is important because it determines how resources should be spent to stop an invasion in its tracks. The spread of disease such as the black plague in Europe or the spread of an invasive species such as the gypsy moth from Asia are examples of ecological invasions.

Two camps of scientists work on this problem -- mathematicians and ecologists. Mathematicians focus on creating models to describe invasion waves, while ecologists go to the field to measure observations of invasions, building computer simulations to predict the phenomenon they observe. Ideally both camps should agree on the underlying theory to explain their model results. But an ongoing argument continues among these scientists due to one seemingly simple detail -- how randomness affects an ecological invasion. Reluga hopes his approach will settle the argument, reconciling mathematical models with ecological observations.

Paper - Things - Kinds - Randomness - Effects

"I hope this paper makes things clear that different kinds of randomness have different effects on invasions," Reluga said.

Previously, ecologists made inconsistent theories about how randomness influences an invasion. Some said it sped up while others said it slowed down an invasion. This is in contrast to mathematicians who said randomness had no affect on invasions, but randomness affects an ecological invasion in a number of different ways.

Reluga - Work - Randomness - Factors - Invasion

Reluga's work categorizes this randomness into three factors -- spatial, demographic, and temporal. The invasion of a forest population, such as the spread of acorn trees in England and Scotland at the end of the last ice age, can show how all three random factors affect this ecological invasion. The presence of...
(Excerpt) Read more at: ScienceDaily
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