Research: Predicting and managing the spread of invasive beavers in Patagonia
Abstract: Beavers were introduced to the island of Tierra del Fuego in 1946 and have since spread throughout the southern beech forest and more recently through the adjacent steppe. They reached mainland Chile by the mid-90s, threatening invasion of all of Patagonia. Beavers drastically alter woody biomass and hydrology, potentially causing both extinction of native species and economic harm to humans, thus highlighting the need to control their spread. Observed rates of invasion in forest and steppe are strikingly different; supporting the hypothesis that habitat affects beaver demography and movement. For my research I am constructing a set of models of differing complexity, incorporating habitat-specific vital rates and movement and parameterized with data we are collecting in the field in Tierra del Fuego. This work will help to identify effective and efficient tools for forecasting and managing the spread of the beaver invasion in the heterogeneous landscapes of Patagonia.