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Lecture on mathematical modelling to explain ‘patchy invasions’

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Lecture on mathematical modelling to explain ‘patchy invasions’

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Published by University of Leicester Press Office for University of Leicester in Education and also in Communities, Environment

University of Leicester public lecture on Tuesday 4 December tackles invasive plant and animal species

A mathematician will discuss new means of modelling invasions by non-native flora and fauna, with important implications for the management and control of invasive species.

Professor Sergei Petrovskii of the Department of Mathematics will discuss how the accepted paradigm of an invasive species spread, in which the invasion expands with a defined boundary or edge, appears to be at odds with some observations. He will illustrate how alternative mathematical models can explain the behaviour and development of biological invasion more accurately.

Professor Petrovskii will be presenting his research at his professorial inaugural lecture ‘Understanding ecological complexity through mathematical models’ on Tuesday 4 December at the University of Leicester. It will take place from 5.30pm in the Ken Edwards Building, Lecture Theatre 1 and is free and open to the public.

Invasion of alien species, such as a non-native plant or insect, often results in considerable economic losses and, for this and other reasons, has been attracting a lot of attention during the last few decades.

Professor Petrovskii said: “A well-developed theory based on diffusion-reaction equations predicts a simple pattern of alien species spread consisting of a continuous travelling boundary or ‘population front’ separating the invaded and non-invaded regions.

“There has been increasing amount of evidence that the spread can take place through formation of a distinct patchy spatial structure without any continuous boundary – a ‘patchy invasion’. The patchy spread is, in fact, its inherent property in case the invasive species is affected by predation or an infectious disease.”

Professor Petrovskii added: "In ecology, replicated experiments under controlled conditions are rarely possible because of the transient nature of the environment: indeed, how, for instance, can we reproduce the same weather pattern again and again? Also, large-scale experiments are costly and, in the situation when consequences are poorly understood, can have adverse effects on some species and on the biodiversity, and may even pose a threat to human well-being.

“Mathematical modelling and computer simulations create a convenient 'virtual environment' and hence can provide a valuable supplement, or sometimes even an alternative, to the field experiment."

 ‘Understanding ecological complexity through mathematical models’ takes place on Tuesday 4 December from 5.30pm in the Ken Edwards Building, Lecture Theatre 1 at the University of Leicester. It is free and open to the public.

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