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Hock K.,Australian Institute of Marine Science | Wolff N.H.,University of Queensland | Beeden R.,Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority 2 68 Flinders Street Townsville QLD 4810 Australia | Hoey J.,Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority 2 68 Flinders Street Townsville QLD 4810 Australia | And 4 more authors.
Conservation Biology | Year: 2016

Controlling the spread of invasive species, pests, and pathogens is often logistically limited to interventions that target specific locations at specific periods. However, in complex, highly connected systems, such as marine environments connected by ocean currents, populations spread dynamically in both space and time via transient connectivity links. This results in nondeterministic future distributions of species in which local populations emerge dynamically and concurrently over a large area. The challenge, therefore, is to choose intervention locations that will maximize the effectiveness of the control efforts. We propose a novel method to manage dynamic species invasions and outbreaks that identifies the intervention locations most likely to curtail population expansion by selectively targeting local populations most likely to expand their future range. Critically, at any point during the development of the invasion or outbreak, the method identifies the local intervention that maximizes the long-term benefit across the ecosystem by restricting species' potential to spread. In so doing, the method adaptively selects the intervention targets under dynamically changing circumstances. To illustrate the effectiveness of the method we applied it to controlling the spread of crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster sp.) outbreaks across Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Application of our method resulted in an 18-fold relative improvement in management outcomes compared with a random targeting of reefs in putative starfish control scenarios. Although we focused on applying the method to reducing the spread of an unwanted species, it can also be used to facilitate the spread of desirable species through connectivity networks. For example, the method could be used to select those fragments of habitat most likely to rebuild a population if they were sufficiently well protected. © 2016 Society for Conservation Biology.

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