Modeling invasive species spread in complex landscapes: The case of potato moth in Ecuador

Verónica Crespo-Pérez, François Rebaudo, Jean François Silvain, Olivier Dangles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Tropical mountains have a long history of human occupation, and although vulnerable to biological invasions, have received minimal attention in the literature. Understanding invasive pest dynamics in socio-ecological, agricultural landscapes, like the tropical Andes, is a challenging but timely issue for ecologists as it may provide developing countries with new tools to face increasing threats posed by these organisms. In this work, road rehabilitation into a remote valley of the Ecuadorian Andes constituted a natural experiment to study the spatial propagation of an invasive potato tuber moth into a previously non-infested agricultural landscape. We used a cellular automaton to model moth spatio-temporal dynamics. Integrating real-world variables in the model allowed us to examine the relative influence of environmental versus social landscape heterogeneity on moth propagation. We focused on two types of anthropogenic activities: (1) the presence and spatial distribution of traditional crop storage structures that modify local microclimate, and (2) long-distance dispersal (LDD) of moths by human-induced transportation. Data from participatory monitoring of pest invasion into the valley and from a larger-scale field survey on the Ecuadorian Andes allowed us to validate our model against actual presence/absence records. Our simulations revealed that high density and a clumped distribution of storage structures had a positive effect on moth invasion by modifying the temperature of the landscape, and that passive, LDD enhanced moth invasion. Model validation showed that including human influence produced more precise and realistic simulations. We provide a powerful and widely applicable methodological framework that stresses the crucial importance of integrating the social landscape to develop accurate invasion models of pest dynamics in complex, agricultural systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1447-1461
Number of pages15
JournalLandscape Ecology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Dec 2011


  • Boosted regression tree
  • Cellular automata
  • Crop storage structures
  • Gravity model
  • Invasive species
  • Long-distance dispersal
  • Mountainous landscapes
  • Tecia solanivora
  • Tropical Andes


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