The overarching question addressed by the research is:
How do policy interventions intended to control or prevent harmful aquatic species invasions affect the decisions and economic welfare of individuals using the relevant resource, and the spatial dynamics of invasions on heterogeneous landscapes?
The recent literature on aquatic species invasions has made major advances in understanding the spatial dynamics of the spread of aquatic invasive species. The model developed in this project would advance this understanding in four ways. First, it would generate estimates of the net benefits to lake users (boaters and shoreline property owners) of various management policies for the control/prevention of AIS. Second, it allows investigation of the economic and ecological consequences of a much richer set of management policies than previously examined in the literature, including the use of economic incentives at different temporal and spatial scales. Third, it highlights the feedbacks induced by the spread of an invasive species across a lake system, in particular the indirect feedbacks that arise because in many cases the policies that managers adopt in response to AIS dispersal also affect the decisions made by boaters, possibly in counterproductive ways. Finally, comparing the forecasting ability of the model with other, simpler and less costly models common in the current literature allows investigation of what features of AIS modeling are especially important. Through a set of experiments, the project would also make significant contributions to basic questions about AIS ecology, such as propagule uptake, out-of-lake survival, colony establishment parameters, and inter- and intra-seasonal abundance cycles.
Aquatic invasive species are among the top natural resource concerns for the public in lake-rich places, as evidenced by the funding of invasive species prevention/control programs and government attempts to develop new laws and administrative rules to manage aquatic invasive species. For example, Wisconsin expenditures for “aquatic invasive species control grants” has increased dramatically, to a current level of $4.3 million/year—a sizable financial outlay for a state granting program—and Wisconsin Assembly Bill NR40 proposes various invasive species control requirements and prohibitions. The efficacy of such financial and legal efforts can benefit from research examining which lakes are most vulnerable to invasion and what are the implications of alternative management regimes for the spread and economic impact of AIS.