Using the Spatial Population Abundance Dynamics Engine for conservation management

Nicholas J. Beeton*, Clive R. Mcmahon, Grant J. Williamson, Joanne Potts, Jonathan Bloomer, Marthán N. Bester, Larry K. Forbes, Chris N. Johnson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


1. An explicit spatial understanding of population dynamics is often critical for effective management of wild populations. Sophisticated approaches are available to simulate these dynamics, but are largely either spatially homogeneous or agent based, and thus best suited to small spatial or temporal scales. These approaches also often ignore financial decisions crucial to choosing management approaches on the basis of cost-effectiveness. 

2. We created a user-friendly and flexible modelling framework for simulating these population issues at large spatial scales - the Spatial Population Abundance Dynamics Engine (SPADE). SPADE is based on the Spatio-Temporal Animal Reduction (STAR) model (McMahon et al. 2010) and uses a reaction-diffusion approach to model population trajectories and a cost-benefit analysis technique to calculate optimal management strategies over long periods and across broad spatial scales. It expands on STAR by incorporating species interactions and multiple concurrent management strategies, and by allowing full user control of functional forms and parameters. 

3. We used SPADE to simulate the eradication of feral domestic cats Felis catus on sub-Antarctic Marion Island (Bester et al., South African Journal of Wildlife Research, 32, 2002, 65) and compared modelled outputs to observed data. The parameters of the best-fitting model reflected the conditions of the management programme, and the model successfully simulated the observed movement of the cat population to the southern and eastern portion of the island under hunting pressure. We further demonstrated that none of the management strategies would likely have been successful within a reasonable time frame if performed in isolation. 

4. Spatial Population Abundance Dynamics Engine is applicable to a wide range of population management problems and allows easy generation, modification and analysis of management scenarios. It is a useful tool for the planning, evaluation and optimisation of the management of wild populations and can be used without specialised training.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1407-1416
Number of pages10
JournalMethods in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Felis catus
  • Demography
  • Eradication
  • Invasive species
  • Scenario building
  • Spatial ecology
  • Wildlife disease


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