Matrix analysis to model the invasion of alligatorweed (Alternanthera philoxeroides) on Kentucky lakes

Samantha Erwin, Aron Huckaba, Kate S. He, Maeve McCarthy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


AimsAlligatorweed (Alternanthera philoxeroides (Mart.) Griseb.) is an invasive species indigenous to South America. With its rapid invasion of southeastern US waterways, understanding the invasiveness of this plant species is critical for providing possible mechanisms of prevention for resource managers. The aim of this project is to use a matrix model to study the invasion dynamics of alligatorweed under both terrestrial and aquatic environments. The use of this model allows for a deeper understanding of the invasiveness and life history-stage structure of alligatorweed. In particular, matrix analysis can further test the hypothesis that certain life stages of alligatorweed might be more sensitive to control and management.MethodsA greenhouse experiment was conducted to study the spread of alligatorweed under both aquatic and terrestrial environments. Utilizing the growth data obtained during the summer of 2010, matrix analysis was used to model the growth of alligatorweed for six different treatments. Transition matrices were generated based on plant measurements taken at different life stages defined by the number of leaves or nodes. These matrices are population projection models whose eigenvalues represent the growth rate of alligatorweed. A high growth rate is a key feature of successful invaders. Residuals were calculated and sensitivity analysis was performed to test the accuracy of the model and importance of each life stage over the entire life cycle of alligatorweed.Important findingsThe results of this study indicate that in the aquatic habitat, plants at their early life cycle stage are most sensitive to potential control measures. Conversely, in the terrestrial habitat, the most sensitive stage of alligatorweed is at its late life cycle stage, characterized with large-sized plants, thus suggesting the best timing for management and eradication of this invasive species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)150-157
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Plant Ecology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2013


  • invasive plant
  • life stage
  • matrix model
  • population projection matrices
  • sensitivity analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Plant Science


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