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  1. Abstract

    Biological invasions are usually examined in the context of their impacts on native species. However, few studies have examined the dynamics between invaders when multiple exotic species successfully coexist in a novel environment. Yet, long‐term coexistence of now established exotic species has been observed in North American lady beetle communities. Exotic lady beetlesHarmonia axyridisandCoccinella septempunctatawere introduced for biological control in agricultural systems and have since become dominant species within these communities. In this study, we investigated coexistence via spatial and temporal niche partitioning amongH. axyridisandC. septempunctatausing a 31‐year data set from southwestern Michigan, USA. We found evidence of long‐term coexistence through a combination of small‐scale environmental, habitat, and seasonal mechanisms. Across years,H. axyridisandC. septempunctataexperienced patterns of cyclical dominance likely related to yearly variation in temperature and precipitation. Within years, populations ofC. septempunctatapeaked early in the growing season at 550 degree days, whileH. axyridispopulations grew in the season until 1250 degree days and continued to have high activity after this point.C. septempunctatawas generally most abundant in herbaceous crops, whereasH. axyridisdid not display strong habitat preferences. These findings suggest that within this regionH. axyridishas broader habitat and abiotic environmental preferences, whereasC. septempunctatathrives under more specific ecological conditions. These ecological differences have contributed to the continued coexistence of these two invaders. Understanding the mechanisms that allow for the coexistence of dominant exotic species contributes to native biodiversity conservation management of invaded ecosystems.

     
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  2. Background Understanding how study design and monitoring strategies shape inference within, and synthesis across, studies is critical across biological disciplines. Many biological and field studies are short term and limited in scope. Monitoring studies are critical for informing public health about potential vectors of concern, such as Ixodes scapularis (black-legged ticks). Black-legged ticks are a taxon of ecological and human health concern due to their status as primary vectors of Borrelia burgdorferi , the bacteria that transmits Lyme disease. However, variation in black-legged tick monitoring, and gaps in data, are currently considered major barriers to understanding population trends and in turn, predicting Lyme disease risk. To understand how variable methodology in black-legged tick studies may influence which population patterns researchers find, we conducted a data synthesis experiment. Materials and Methods We searched for publicly available black-legged tick abundance dataset that had at least 9 years of data, using keywords about ticks in internet search engines, literature databases, data repositories and public health websites. Our analysis included 289 datasets from seven surveys from locations in the US, ranging in length from 9 to 24 years. We used a moving window analysis, a non-random resampling approach, to investigate the temporal stability of black-legged tick population trajectories across the US. We then used t-tests to assess differences in stability time across different study parameters. Results All of our sampled datasets required 4 or more years to reach stability. We also found several study factors can have an impact on the likelihood of a study reaching stability and of data leading to misleading results if the study does not reach stability. Specifically, datasets collected via dragging reached stability significantly faster than data collected via opportunistic sampling. Datasets that sampled larva reached stability significantly later than those that sampled adults or nymphs. Additionally, datasets collected at the broadest spatial scale (county) reached stability fastest. Conclusion We used 289 datasets from seven long term black-legged tick studies to conduct a non-random data resampling experiment, revealing that sampling design does shape inferences in black-legged tick population trajectories and how many years it takes to find stable patterns. Specifically, our results show the importance of study length, sampling technique, life stage, and geographic scope in understanding black-legged tick populations, in the absence of standardized surveillance methods. Current public health efforts based on existing black-legged tick datasets must take monitoring study parameters into account, to better understand if and how to use monitoring data to inform decisioning. We also advocate that potential future forecasting initiatives consider these parameters when projecting future black-legged tick population trends. 
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