Hydrogen Isotopes as a Sentinel of Biological Invasion by the Japanese Beetle, Popillia japonica (Newman)
Invasive species alter ecosystems, threaten native and endangered species, and have negative economic impacts. Knowing where invading individuals are from and when they arrive to a new site can guide management. Here, we evaluated how well the stable hydrogen isotope composition (δ2H) records the recent origin and time since arrival of specimens of the invasive Japanese beetle (Popillia japonica Newman) captured near the Portland International Airport (Oregon, U.S.A.). The δ2H of Japanese beetle specimens collected from sites across the contiguous U.S.A. reflected the δ2H of local precipitation, a relationship similar to that documented for other organisms, and one confirming the utility of δ2H as a geographic fingerprint. Within weeks after experimental relocation to a new isotopic environment, the δ2H of beetles changed linearly with time, demonstrating the potential for δ2H to also mark the timing of arrival to a new location. We used a hierarchical Bayesian model to estimate the recent geographical origin and timing of arrival of each specimen based on its δ2H value. The geographic resolution was broad, with values consistent with multiple regions of origin in the eastern U.S.A., slightly favoring the southeastern U.S.A. as the more likely source. Beetles trapped from 2007–2010 had arrived 30 or more days prior to trapping, whereas the median time since arrival declined to 3–7 days for beetles trapped from 2012–2014. This reduction in the time between arrival and trapping at the Portland International Airport supports the efficacy of trapping and spraying to prevent establishment. More generally, our analysis shows how stable isotopes can serve as sentinels of biological invasions, verifying the efficacy of control measures, or, alternatively, indicating when those measures show signs of failure.