virToad: simulating the spatiotemporal population dynamics and management of a global invader

Arman N. Pili, Reid Tingley, David G. Chapple, Nathan H. Schumaker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Context: The cane toad (Rhinella marina) is one of the most globally significant and well-studied invasive alien species, and the detrimental impacts of its invasions warrant the design and application of decision support tools. While many models have been developed for guiding policies addressing cane toad invasions, none reliably predict the species’ population dynamics at scales relevant to on-the-ground management. 

Objectives: We describe virToad—an individual-based life-history simulator of the cane toad. We then illustrate virToad’s ability to forecast the cane toad’s spatiotemporal population dynamics at local- to landscape-scales, and its potential for improving management responses to cane toad invasions. Methods: We designed virToad to make population dynamics an emergent consequence of the cane toad’s fitness-maximising behavioural responses to mechanistic constraints (e.g., water availability, kin selection), and to management actions. We used virToad to simulate cane toad population dynamics in the absence of management, and under alternative management strategies implemented across a spectrum of effort: hand-capturing and trapping of juveniles and adults, fencing waterbodies, and trapping and chemically suppressing tadpoles. 

Results: virToad produced plausible predictions of cane toad population densities, detection probabilities, distributions, and spatial segregation. Simulation experiments indicated that the efficacy of competing management actions varied significantly, and that only moderate to high effort hand-capturing and trapping of juveniles and adults had the potential to suppress invasions. 

Conclusion: virToad is an open-source, rigorous, and extensible decision support platform that will enable researchers and practitioners to defensibly forecast local- to landscape-scale cane toad spatiotemporal population dynamics and management outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2273-2292
Number of pages20
JournalLandscape Ecology
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


  • Biosecurity
  • Cane toad (Rhinalla marina)
  • Individual-based modelling
  • Invasive alien species
  • Landscape management
  • Spatiotemporal population dynamics

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