Historical factors mediate the effects of interspecific competition
- Bio-Protection & Ecology Division, P.O. Box 84, Lincoln University, Canterbury, New Zealand
- Landcare Research, P.O. Box 69, Lincoln, Canterbury, New Zealand
Biotic interactions, such as interspecific competition, are potentially important in determining whether introduced species succeed or fail to establish wild populations. Such effects may be difficult to detect, however, because the outcome of interspecific competition may depend on historical and largely unpredictable circumstances such as the timing of introductions and the number of individuals of each species introduced. I used a stochastic birth-death model to explore the effects of interspecific competition, the timing of introductions and the numbers of individuals of each species introduced, on invasion success in a two-species competitive system. I then compared the model predictions with actual data on establishment outcomes for passerine birds introduced to New Zealand, for which we have data on the timing of introductions, the size of release populations, and a measure of the strength of per capita competition (the degree of morphological similarity among species). The model and data agree well, suggesting that interspecific competition was an important determinant of invasion success in this assemblage, but that the outcome of competition depended critically on circumstances such as the timing of introductions and number of individuals released. Hence, while there is a deterministic component to invasion success in this assemblage (morphologically similar species are less likely to establish), historical circumstances played a critical role in mediating the outcomes.