skip to main content


The NSF Public Access Repository (NSF-PAR) system and access will be unavailable from 5:00 PM ET until 11:00 PM ET on Friday, June 21 due to maintenance. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Title: Dominant species establishment may influence invasion resistance more than phylogenetic or functional diversity

Phylogenetic and functional diversity are theorised to increase invasion resistance. Experimentally testing whether plant communities higher in these components of diversity are less invasible is an important step for guiding restoration designs.

To investigate how phylogenetic and functional diversity of vegetation affect invasion resistance in a restoration setting, we used experimental prairie restoration plots. The experiment crossed three levels of phylogenetic diversity with two levels of functional diversity while species richness was held constant. We allowed invaders to colonise plots; these included native species from neighbouring plots and non‐native invasive species from a surrounding old field. We tested if invader biomass was influenced by phylogenetic and functional diversity, and phylogenetic and hierarchical trait distances between invaders and planted species. We binned each invader into three categories: native species from neighbouring experimental plots (site‐specific invaders), native species not part of the experimental species pool (native invaders) or non‐native species (non‐native invaders).

Counter to expectation, both non‐native and native invaders became more abundant in more phylogenetically diverse plots. However, plots with higher abundance of planted Asteraceae, a dominant family of the tallgrass prairie, had lower invader biomass for both native and non‐native invaders.

We also found that hierarchical trait differences shaped invasion. The species that became most abundant were non‐native invaders that were taller, and native invaders with low specific leaf area relative to planted species. Site‐specific invaders were not influenced by any plot‐level diversity metrics tested.

Synthesis and application: Our results suggest that greater phylogenetic diversity may lower resistance to invasion. This effect may be due to more even but sparser niche packing in high‐diversity plots, associated with greater availability of unsaturated niche space for colonisation. However, trait composition fostered invasion resistance in two ways in our study. First, establishment of native species with strongly dominant traits may confer invasion resistance. Second, species mixes that optimise trait differences between planted vegetation and likely invaders may enhance invasion‐resistance.

more » « less
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of Applied Ecology
Medium: X Size: p. 2652-2664
["p. 2652-2664"]
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    Understanding why some, but not other, plant communities are vulnerable to alien invasive species is essential for predicting and managing biological invasions. Darwin proposed two seemingly contradictory hypotheses on how native‐invader relatedness influences invasion success, emphasizing, respectively, the importance of environmental filtering and competition between natives and invaders. Despite much recent empirical research on this topic, reconciling these two hypotheses, known as Darwin's naturalization conundrum, remains a challenge.

    Using plot‐level data from natural forests along elevational transects covering strong environmental gradients, we examined whether the invasion of the globally invasive species crofton weed (Ageratina adenophora) can be explained by environmental filtering and/or competition from closely related species linked to environmental gradients.

    Abundant precipitation, warm temperatures, open canopies and postfire environments facilitatedA. adenophorainvasion, whereas resident taxonomic richness suppressed its invasion. Importantly, we found that invader‐resident relatedness had a strong negative effect on invader cover under resource scarcity conditions (e.g. low water availability), but not under non‐resource environmental stress gradients (e.g. low temperature).

    Synthesis and applications.Our results suggest that the impact of species phylogenetic relatedness on invasion success varies distinctly along resource versus non‐resource environmental gradients. These results help to reconcile Darwin's naturalization conundrum, thereby improving the ability to predict the success of alien plant invasions in a changing world. Our study stresses the need to consider adjusting forest species composition to strengthen their resistance to invasion, while taking into account resource and non‐resource environmental gradients, particularly after wildfires.

    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    Strategies to control ongoing biological invasions are often developed by modelling the invasive species' population and aiming to reduce its abundance. However, if the ultimate objective is to protect and restore native species, focussing solely on the invader may not be optimal because it does not account for (i) species interactions that can cause the invader's impacts to depend nonlinearly on its abundance, (ii) collateral damages to native species incurred due to nonspecific removal methods or (iii) native‐invader trait differences.

    To identify an invader suppression strategy that maximizes average native population size, we applied optimal control theory to a two‐species model of a native species threatened by an invasive competitor. We examined trade‐offs between iterative physical removals that selectively target invaders and intensifiable chemical control that is nonselective but has higher efficacy.

    We found that while iterative removals were capable of supporting large native populations when applied continuously, cost could be prohibitively high. In contrast, when favourable native‐invader trait differences enabled native species to re‐establish more quickly than invaders, intensifiable methods could achieve substantial restoration benefits at lower cost by focussing removal effort into periodic, high‐efficacy events.

    In a metapopulation, removals that rotated among spatial patches were optimal when the native species had higher dispersal, whereas synchronous removals were preferred when native recovery was initiated locally and the invader could disperse.

    For a case study in Hawaiian streams, we compared how effective two alternative methods of removing invasive live‐bearing fishes (poeciliids) might be at restoring the endemic freshwater gobySicyopterus stimpsoni. We found that rotenone (a piscicidal chemical) offered superior benefits when the control budget was small and efficacy was high, but that electrofishing (use of electricity to manually collect target fish) was better with larger budgets and in many lower‐efficacy scenarios.

    Synthesis and applications.Our findings demonstrate that, by accounting for species interactions and collateral damage, invasive species control strategies can be optimized in light of species traits. Choices about the timing, locations and types of removal events present opportunities to increase the efficiency with which invasive species suppression benefits native species.

    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    The prediction that higher biodiversity leads to denser niche packing and thus higher community resistance to invasion has long been studied, with species richness as the predominant measure of diversity. However, few studies have explored how phylogenetic and functional diversity, which should represent niche space more faithfully than taxonomic diversity, influence community invasibility, especially across longer time frames and over larger spatial extents.

    We used a 15‐year, 150‐site grassland dataset to assess relationships between invasive plant abundance and phylogenetic, functional and taxonomic diversity of recipient native plant communities. We analysed the dataset both pooled across all surveys and longitudinally, leveraging time‐series data to compare observed patterns in invasion with those predicted by two community assembly processes: biotic resistance and competitive exclusion. We expected more phylogenetically and functionally diverse communities to exhibit greater resistance to invasion.

    With the pooled dataset, we found support for the long‐standing observation that communities with more native species have lower abundance of invasive species, and a more novel finding that more phylogenetically diverse communities had higher abundance of invasive species. We found no influence of aggregate (multivariate) functional diversity on invasion, but assemblages with taller plants, lower variability in plant height and lower seed mass were less invaded. Viewed longitudinally, the phylogenetic diversity relationship was reversed: the most phylogenetically diverse communities were most resistant to invasion. This apparent discrepancy suggests invasion dynamics are influenced by both site attributes and biotic resistance and emphasizes the value in studying invasion across time.

    Synthesis. Our results provide insight into the nuances of the diversity–invasibility relationship: invasion dynamics differed for different dimensions of diversity and depending on whether the relationship was evaluated longitudinally. Our findings highlight the limitations of using single time‐point ‘snapshots’ of community composition to infer invasion mechanisms.

    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    The direct role of non‐native plant invaders in driving negative population‐ and community‐level processes of native species has been recently questioned. Addressing this controversy requires determining quantitatively if invaders negatively affect native population fitness. Because the invasion of non‐natives often coincides with other anthropogenic stressors, experiments that partition the putative impact of non‐natives from other known stressors and assess their potential synergies are required. While many studies have examined the effects of non‐natives on components of native plant performance, studies that decompose the net fitness effects of non‐natives from other anthropogenic stressors on population growth rate are lacking.

    We used 6 years of detailed demographic data to parameterize a size‐dependent integral projection model to examine the individual and combined effects of an allelochemical‐producing invader (Alliaria petiolata) and an overabundant ungulate herbivore(Odocoileus virginianus) on the population dynamics of an understory perennial (Trillium erectum).

    We show thatAlliariaconsistently and negatively affects the population dynamics ofTrillium. Specifically, this invader reduces native population growth rate and alters the size distribution of the population at equilibrium.Alliariaalso works in concert with the known negative impacts of overabundant white‐tailed deer, illustrating the additive effects of anthropogenic stressors on native plant dynamics.

    Synthesis.Alliaria'seffects on vital rates differed in magnitude and sign across the native's life cycle, highlighting the importance of detailed demographic analyses. Our study provides novel empirical support for the claim that non‐native invasive species can significantly and directly reduce the fitness of native plants.

    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    Whether wild herbivores confer biotic resistance to invasion by exotic plants remains a key question in ecology. There is evidence that wild herbivores can impede invasion by exotic plants, but it is unclear whether and how this generalises across ecosystems with varying wild herbivore diversity and functional groups of plants, particularly over long‐term (decadal) time frames.

    Using data from three long‐term (13‐ to 26‐year) exclosure experiments in central Kenya, we tested the effects of wild herbivores on the density of exotic invasive cacti,Opuntia strictaandO. ficus‐indica(collectively,Opuntia), which are among the worst invasive species globally. We also examined relationships between wild herbivore richness and elephant occurrence probability with the probability ofO. strictapresence at the landscape level (6150 km2).

    Opuntiadensities were 74% to 99% lower in almost all plots accessible to wild herbivores compared to exclosure plots.Opuntiadensities also increased more rapidly across time in plots excluding wild herbivores. These effects were largely driven by megaherbivores (≥1000 kg), particularly elephants.

    At the landscape level, modelledOpuntia strictaoccurrence probability was negatively correlated with estimated species richness of wild herbivores and elephant occurrence probability. On average,O. strictaoccurrence probability fell from ~0.56 to ~0.45 as wild herbivore richness increased from 6 to 10 species and fell from ~0.57 to ~0.40 as elephant occurrence probability increased from ~0.41 to ~0.84. These multi‐scale results suggest that any facilitative effects ofOpuntiaby wild herbivores (e.g. seed/vegetative dispersal) are overridden by suppression (e.g. consumption, uprooting, trampling).

    Synthesis. Our experimental and observational findings that wild herbivores confer resistance to invasion by exotic cacti add to evidence that conserving and restoring native herbivore assemblages (particularly megaherbivores) can increase community resistance to plant invasions.

    more » « less