A modelling approach to estimate the effect of exotic pollinators on exotic weed population dynamics: Bumblebees and broom in Australia

  • Stokes K
  • Buckley Y
  • Sheppard A
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The role of mutualisms in contributing to species invasions is rarely considered, inhibiting effective risk analysis and management options. Potential ecological consequences of invasion of non-native pollinators include increased pollination and seed set of invasive plants, with subsequent impacts on population growth rates and rates of spread. We outline a quantitative approach for evaluating the impact of a proposed introduction of an invasive pollinator on existing weed population dynamics and demonstrate the use of this approach on a relatively data-rich case study: the impacts on Cytisus scoparius (Scotch broom) from proposed introduction of Bombus terrestris. Three models have been used to assess population growth (matrix model), spread speed (integrodifference equation), and equilibrium occupancy (lattice model) for C. scoparius. We use available demographic data for an Australian population to parameterize two of these models. Increased seed set due to more efficient pollination resulted in a higher population growth rate in the density-independent matrix model, whereas simulations of enhanced pollination scenarios had a negligible effect on equilibrium weed occupancy in the lattice model. This is attributed to strong microsite limitation of recruitment in invasive C. scoparius populations observed in Australia and incorporated in the lattice model. A lack of information regarding secondary ant dispersal of C. scoparius prevents us from parameterizing the integrodifference equation model for Australia, but studies of invasive populations in California suggest that spread speed will also increase with higher seed set. For microsite-limited C. scoparius populations, increased seed set has minimal effects on equilibrium site occupancy. However, for density-independent rapidly invading populations, increased seed set is likely to lead to higher growth rates and spread speeds. The impacts of introduced pollinators on native flora and fauna and the potential for promoting range expansion in pollinator-limited 'sleeper weeds' also remain substantial risks.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Biological invasions
  • Cytisus scoparius
  • Dispersal
  • Invasive plant
  • Mutualism
  • Pollination efficiency
  • Seed limitation
  • Weed

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