Quantile regression of microgeographic variation in population characteristics of an invasive vertebrate predator

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Localized ecological conditions have the potential to induce variation in population characteristics such as size distributions and body conditions. The ability to generalize the influence of ecological characteristics on such population traits may be particularly meaningful when those traits influence prospects for successful management interventions. To characterize variability in invasive Brown Treesnake population attributes within and among habitat types, we conducted systematic and seasonally-balanced surveys, collecting 100 snakes from each of 18 sites: three replicates within each of six major habitat types comprising 95% of Guam’s geographic expanse. Our study constitutes one of the most comprehensive and controlled samplings of any published snake study. Quantile regression on snake size and body condition indicated significant ecological heterogeneity, with a general trend of relative consistency of size classes and body conditions within and among scrub and Leucaena forest habitat types and more heterogeneity among ravine forest, savanna, and urban residential sites. Larger and more robust snakes were found within some savanna and urban habitat replicates, likely due to relative availability of larger prey. Compared to more homogeneous samples in the wet season, variability in size distributions and body conditions was greater during the dry season. Although there is evidence of habitat influencing Brown Treesnake populations at localized scales (e.g., the higher prevalence of larger snakes—particularly males—in savanna and urban sites), the level of variability among sites within habitat types indicates little ability to make meaningful predictions about these traits at unsampled locations. Seasonal variability within sites and habitats indicates that localized population characterization should include sampling in both wet and dry seasons. Extreme values at single replicates occasionally influenced overall habitat patterns, while pooling replicates masked variability among sites. A full understanding of population characteristics should include an assessment of variability both at the site and habitat level.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Quantile regression of microgeographic variation in population characteristics of an invasive vertebrate predator
Series title PLoS ONE
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0177671
Volume 12
Issue 6
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher PLOS
Contributing office(s) Fort Collins Science Center
Description e0177671; 19 p.
First page 1
Last page 19
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