Advances in Understanding Landscape Influences on Freshwater Habitats and Biological Assemblages

Landscape Approaches to Understanding Invasions in Inland Lakes: Rainbow Smelt as a Case Study

Karen M. Alofs


Abstract.—Lakes, like islands, have been model systems for testing important concepts in landscape ecology. Lake assemblage and community composition, generally, and the occurrence of invaders, specifically, are controlled by a range of factors across scales. Here, I use the example of Rainbow Smelt Osmerus mordax invasions in inland lakes to illustrate common problems in both predictive and explanatory models of invasive species distributions across landscapes. Using variables related to dispersal and regional- and lake-scale environment, I fitted a series of boosted regression tree models to examine the factors that explain Rainbow Smelt invasion success. These models illustrate the potential effects of extrapolation and nonequilibrium conditions, the role of human activities, and the difficulty of understanding the importance of biotic interactions in the spread of invasives. Understanding the factors controlling invasions should inform management and conservation of inland lake ecosystems. For this to be effective, a mechanistic framework is needed to untie correlations in potential driving factors. Emerging data sets with fine spatial grain and broad spatial extent will support the transition from correlative models to mechanistic understanding of aquatic invasions.