Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Native communities determine the identity of exotic invaders even at scales at which communities are unsaturated.

Abstract

Aim: To determine why some communities are more invasible than others and how this depends on spatial scale. Our previous work in serpentine ecosystems showed that native and exotic diversity are negatively correlated at small scales, but became positively correlated at larger scales. We hypothesized that this pattern was the result of classic niche partitioning at small scales where the environment is homogeneous, and a shift to the dominance of coexistence mechanisms that depend on spatial heterogeneity in the environment at large scales. Location: Serpentine ecosystem, Northern California. Methods: We test the above hypotheses using the phylogenetic relatedness of natives and exotics. We hypothesized that (1) at small scales, native and exotic species should be more distantly related than expected from a random assemblage model because with biotic resistance, successful invaders should have niches that are different from those of the natives present and (2) at large scales, native and exotic species should not be more distantly related than expected. Result: We find strong support for the first hypothesis providing further evidence of biotic resistance at small scales. However, at large scales, native and exotic species were also more distantly related than expected. Importantly, however, natives and exotics were more distantly related at small scales than they were at large scales, suggesting that in the transition from small to large scales, biotic resistance is relaxed but still present. Communities at large scales were not saturated in the sense that more species could enter the community, increasing species richness. However, species did not invade indiscriminately. Exotic species closely related to species already established the community were excluded. Main conclusions: Native communities determine the identity of exotic invaders even at large spatial scales where communities are unsaturated. These results hold promise for predicting which species will invade a community given the species present.