The Functional Response Ratio (FRR): advancing comparative metrics for predicting the ecological impacts of invasive alien species

Ross N. Cuthbert, James W. E. Dickey, Neil E. Coughlan, Patrick W. S. Joyce, Jaimie T. A. Dick

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The Functional Response (FR) has been identified as a powerful predictive tool to forecast the ecological impacts of existing, emerging and future invasive alien species. In particular, the parameters of attack rate a and handling time h may be predictive of the ecological impacts of invaders when utilised in comparison with trophically analogous natives. However, researchers in many cases face somewhat contradictory impact predictions based on the use of one parameter or the other. Here, we thus propose a new metric, the Functional Response Ratio (FRR), which is simply a divided by h: that is, FRR = a/ h. Given that high values of a and low values of h should associate with high impact, and vice versa, the FRR metric balances the information from both parameters. This also resolves contradictions when one parameter gives opposite predictions to the other. Using multiple examples obtained from the literature, we find that the FRR indeed resolves such contradictions and that values of FRR of invaders are consistently higher than those of natives, irrespective of experimental or environmental context. Accordingly, the use of FRR provides a novel and reliable metric for scientists, stakeholders and practitioners to predict the ecological impacts of existing, emerging and future invasive alien species across taxa and trophic groups.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages5
JournalBiological Invasions
Early online date11 May 2019
Publication statusEarly online date - 11 May 2019


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