General guidelines for invasive plant management based on comparative demography of invasive and native plant populations.
General guidelines for invasive plant management are currently lacking. Population declines may be achieved by focusing control on demographic processes (survival, growth, fecundity) with the greatest impact on population growth rate. However, we often have little demographic information on populations in the early stages of an invasion when control can be most effective. Here we determine whether synthesis of existing demographic data on invasive and native plant populations can address this knowledge problem. We compared population dynamics between invasive and native species using published matrix population models for 21 invasive and 179 native plant species. We examined whether the population growth rate responsiveness to survival, growth and fecundity perturbations varied between invasive and native species, and determined which demographic processes of invaders to target for reductions in population growth rate. Invaders had higher population growth rates (λ) than natives, resulting in differences in demographic processes. Perturbations of growth and fecundity transitions (elasticities) were more important for population growth of invaders, whereas perturbations of survival had greater importance for population growth of natives. For both invasive and native species, elasticities of λ to survival increased with life span and decreased with λ; while elasticities to growth and fecundity decreased with life span and increased with λ. For long-lived invaders, simulated reductions in either survival, growth or fecundity transitions were generally insufficient to produce population declines, whereas multiple reductions in either survival+growth or survival+fecundity were more effective. For short-lived invaders, simulated reductions in growth or fecundity and all pairwise multiple reductions produced population declines. Synthesis and applications. Life history and population growth rate of invasive species are important in the selection of control targets. For rapidly growing populations of short-lived invaders, growth and fecundity transitions should be prioritized as control targets over survival transitions. For long-lived invaders, simultaneous reductions in more than one demographic process, preferably survival and growth, are usually required to ensure population decline. These general guidelines can be applied to rapidly growing new plant invasions and at the invasion front where detailed demographic data on invasive species are lacking.