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Poxvirus, red and grey squirrel dynamics: Is the recovery of a common predator affecting system equilibria? Insights from a predator-prey ecoepidemic model

  • * Corresponding author: Ezio Venturino

    * Corresponding author: Ezio Venturino

The third author is member of the INdAM research group GNCS.

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  • In Europe, the Eastern grey squirrel is an allochthonous species causing severe impacts on the native red squirrel. The invasive species establishes complex relationships with the native one, out-competing it through resource and disease-mediated competition. However, recent research shed light on the potential role of a predator, the pine marten, in reversing the outcome of the competition between squirrels. Here, we investigate this hypothesis developing a one predator-two prey ecoepidemic model, including disease (squirrel poxvirus) transmission. We assess the equilibria of the dynamical system and investigate their sensitivity to ecosystem parameters changes through numerical simulations.

    Our analysis reveals that the system is more likely to evolve toward points where the red squirrels thrive than toward a disease-and-red-squirrels-free point. Although the disease is likely to remain endemic in the system, the introduction of the pine marten destabilizes previous equilibria, favouring the native squirrel and facilitating wildlife managers in their efforts to protect it. Nevertheless, the complete eradication of grey squirrels could be achieved only for specified values of the predation rates and pine marten carrying capacity. The active management of grey squirrel populations remains therefore necessary to try to eradicate the invader from the system.

    Mathematics Subject Classification: Primary: 92D40, 92D25; Secondary: 92D30.

    Citation:

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  • Figure 1.  Equilibria behaviour in the $ u-h $ parameter space. The height of the surface represents the value of each population at equilibrium; clockwise from top left $ G $, $ R $, $ I $, $ M $

    Figure 2.  Equilibria behaviour in the $ h-r $ parameter space. The height of the surface represents the value of each population at equilibrium; clockwise from top left $ G $, $ R $, $ I $, $ M $

    Figure 3.  Equilibria behaviour in the $ h-b $ parameter space. The height of the surface represents the value of each population at equilibrium; clockwise from top left $ G $, $ R $, $ I $, $ M $

    Figure 4.  Equilibria behaviour in the $ h-\mu $ parameter space. The height of the surface represents the value of each population at equilibrium; clockwise from top left $ G $, $ R $, $ I $, $ M $

    Figure 5.  Equilibria behaviour in the $ \mu-r $ parameter space. The height of the surface represents the value of each population at equilibrium; clockwise from top left $ G $, $ R $, $ I $, $ M $

    Figure 6.  Equilibria behaviour in the $ u-c $ parameter space. The height of the surface represents the value of each population at equilibrium; clockwise from top left $ G $, $ R $, $ I $, $ M $

    Figure 7.  Equilibria behaviour in the $ u-\mu $ parameter space. The height of the surface represents the value of each population at equilibrium; clockwise from top left $ G $, $ R $, $ I $, $ M $

    Figure 8.  Equilibria behaviour in the $ u-s $ parameter space. The height of the surface represents the value of each population at equilibrium; clockwise from top left $ G $, $ R $, $ I $, $ M $

    Table 1.  Possible ecosystem's equilibria other than coexistence

    Equilibria Feasibility Stability
    $ E_0 =\left( 0, 0, 0, 0 \right) $ unconditional unstable
    $ E_1 =\left( 0, 0, 0, M_1, \right) $ unconditional (3)
    $ E_2 =\left( G_2, 0, 0, 0 \right) $ unconditional unstable
    $ E_3=\left(G_3, 0, 0, M_3\right) $ (4) (5)
    $ E_4 =\left( 0, R_4, 0, 0 \right) $ unconditional unstable
    $ E_5 =\left( 0, R_5, I_5, 0 \right) $ (6) unstable
    $ E_6=\left(0, R_6, 0, M_6\right) $ (7) (8)
    $ E_7=\left(0, R_7, I_7, M_7\right) $ (9), (10), (11) (10), (12)
    $ E_8=\left( G_8, R_8, I_8, 0 \right) $ conditional unstable
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