Surveying invasive species can be highly resource intensive, yet near-real-time evaluations of invasion progress are important resources for management planning. In the case of the soybean rust invasion of the United States, a linked monitoring, prediction, and communication network saved U.S. soybean growers approximately $200 M/yr. Modeling of future movement of the pathogen (Phakopsora pachyrhizi) was based on data about current disease locations from an extensive network of sentinel plots. We developed a dynamic network model for U.S. soybean rust epidemics, with counties as nodes and link weights a function of host hectarage and wind speed and direction. We used the network model to compare four strategies for selecting an optimal subset of sentinel plots, listed here in order of increasing performance: random selection, zonal selection (based on more heavily weighting regions nearer the south, where the pathogen overwinters), frequency-based selection (based on how frequently the county had been infected in the past), and frequency-based selection weighted by the node strength of the sentinel plot in the network model. When dynamic network properties such as node strength are characterized for invasive species, this information can be used to reduce the resources necessary to survey and predict invasion progress.
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