Slowing down a pine invasion despite uncertainty in demography and dispersal.
Management decisions regarding invasive plants often have to be made quickly and in the face of fragmentary knowledge of their population dynamics. However, recommendations are commonly made on the basis of only a restricted set of parameters. Without addressing uncertainty and variability in model parameters we risk ineffective management, resulting in wasted resources and an escalating problem if early chances to control spread are missed. Using available data for Pinus nigra in ungrazed and grazed grassland and shrubland in New Zealand, we parameterized a stage-structured spread model to calculate invasion wave speed, population growth rate and their sensitivities and elasticities to population parameters. Uncertainty distributions of parameters were used with the model to generate confidence intervals (CI) about the model predictions. Ungrazed grassland environments were most vulnerable to invasion and the highest elasticities and sensitivities of invasion speed were to long-distance dispersal parameters. However, there was overlap between the elasticity and sensitivity CI on juvenile survival, seedling establishment and long-distance dispersal parameters, indicating overlap in their effects on invasion speed. While elasticity of invasion speed to long-distance dispersal was highest in shrubland environments, there was overlap with the CI of elasticity to juvenile survival. In shrubland invasion speed was most sensitive to the probability of establishment, especially when establishment was low. In the grazed environment elasticity and sensitivity of invasion speed to the severity of grazing were consistently highest. Management recommendations based on elasticities and sensitivities depend on the vulnerability of the habitat. Synthesis and applications. Despite considerable uncertainty in demography and dispersal, robust management recommendations emerged from the model. Proportional or absolute reductions in long-distance dispersal, juvenile survival and seedling establishment parameters have the potential to reduce wave speed substantially. Plantations of wind-dispersed invasive conifers should not be sited on exposed sites vulnerable to long-distance dispersal events, and trees in these sites should be removed. Invasion speed can also be reduced by removing seedlings, establishing competitive shrubs and grazing. Incorporating uncertainty into the modelling process increases our confidence in the wide applicability of the management strategies recommended here.