Consensual predictions of potential distributional areas for invasive species: a case study of Argentine ants in the Iberian Peninsula
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Invasive species are known to influence the structure and function of invaded ecological communities, and preventive measures appear to be the most efficient means of controlling these effects. However, management of biological invasions requires use of adequate tools to understand and predict invasion patterns in recently introduced areas. The present study: (1) estimates the potential geographic distribution and ecological requirements of the Argentine ant (Linepithema humile Mayr), one of the most conspicuous invasive species throughout the world, in the Iberian Peninsula using ecological niche modeling, and (2) provides new insights into the process of selection of consensual areas among predictions from several modeling methodologies. Ecological niche models were developed using 5 modeling techniques: generalized linear models (GLM), generalized additive models (GAM), generalized boosted models (GBM), Genetic Algorithm for Rule-Set Prediction (GARP), and Maximum Entropy (Maxent). Models for the eastern and western portions of the Iberian Peninsula were built using subsets of occurrence and environmental data to investigate the potential for ecological niche differences between the invading populations. Our results indicate geographic differences between predictions of different approaches, and the utility of ensemble predictions in identifying areas of uncertainty regarding the species’ invasive potential. More generally, our models predict coastal areas and major river corridors as highly suitable for Argentine ants, and indicate that western and eastern Iberian Peninsula populations occupy similar environmental conditions.