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Spatial structure of reproductive success infers mechanisms of ungulate invasion in Nearctic boreal landscapes.
  • Jason Fisher,
  • Cole Burton
Jason Fisher
University of Victoria
Author Profile
Cole Burton
University of British Columbia
Author Profile


1. Landscape change is a key driver of biodiversity declines due to habitat loss and fragmentation, but spatially shifting resources can also facilitate range expansion and invasion. Invasive populations are reproductively successful, and landscape change may buoy this success. 2. We show how modelling the spatial structure of reproductive success can elucidate the mechanisms of range shifts and sustained invasions for mammalian species with attendant young. We use an example of white-tailed deer (deer; Odocoileus virginianus) expansion in the Nearctic boreal forest, a North American phenomenon implicated in severe declines of threatened woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus). 3. We hypothesized that deer reproductive success is linked to forage subsidies provided by extensive landscape change via resource extraction. We measured deer occurrence using data from 62 camera-traps in northern Alberta, Canada, over three years. We weighed support for multiple competing hypotheses about deer reproductive success using multi-state occupancy models and generalized linear models in an AIC-based model selection framework. 4. Spatial patterns of reproductive success were best explained by features associated with petroleum exploration and extraction, which offer early seral vegetation resource subsidies. Effect sizes of anthropogenic features eclipsed natural heterogeneity by two orders of magnitude. We conclude that deer populations are likely buffered from overwinter mortality by landscape change, wherein early seral forage subsidies support high springtime reproductive success to offset or exceed winter losses. 5. Synthesis and Applications. Modelling spatial structuring in reproductive success can become a key goal of remote camera-based global networks, yielding ecological insights into mechanisms of invasion and range shifts to inform effective decision-making for global biodiversity conservation.

Peer review status:Published

18 Sep 2020Submitted to Ecology and Evolution
21 Sep 2020Submission Checks Completed
21 Sep 2020Assigned to Editor
22 Sep 2020Reviewer(s) Assigned
17 Oct 2020Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
19 Oct 2020Editorial Decision: Revise Minor
21 Oct 20201st Revision Received
23 Oct 2020Submission Checks Completed
23 Oct 2020Assigned to Editor
23 Oct 2020Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
03 Nov 2020Editorial Decision: Accept
Jan 2021Published in Ecology and Evolution volume 11 issue 2 on pages 900-911. 10.1002/ece3.7103