By WES SANDER

Capital Press

A study co-authored by a University of California-Davis researcher illustrates the difficulty of predicting the spread of invasive pests.

The study, published in the Sept. 18 edition of the journal Science, is part of the researcher's work to help develop techniques for predicting the spread of pests.

UC-Davis researcher Alan Hastings, with University of Colorado researcher Brett Melbourne, released 600 identical beetles into 30 identical landscapes over 13 generations. The results showed a high degree of variance in how the beetles dispersed.

The study shows significant challenges to identifying the factors that determine how an invasion will spread, the researchers say.

"There appears to be this intrinsic variability, even in the simplest ecological settings, that means that difficulty in prediction is a basic feature of ecological systems," said Hastings, a professor of environmental science.

Forecasts of pest invasions will never be totally predictable, instead relying on a forecast system based on percentage likelihoods of the outcome, like weather forecasts, the researchers say.

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