Marine management affects the invasion success of a non-native species in a temperate reef system in California, USA.
Despite promises that 'healthy' marine systems show increased resilience, the effects of ecosystem management strategies on invasion success in marine systems is still unclear. We show that resistance to the invasive alga, Sargassum horneri, in a temperate reef system occurs through alternate mechanisms in different ecosystem states. In an old marine protected area (MPA), invasion of S. horneri was suppressed, likely due to competitive pressure from native algae, resulting from protection of urchin predators. In a nearby fished urchin barren, invasion of S. horneri was also suppressed, due to herbivory by urchins whose predators are fished. Within newer MPAs with intermediate levels of interacting species, S. horneri was abundant. Here, neither competition from native algae nor herbivory was sufficient to prevent invasion. We confirm that invasion in marine systems is complex and show that multiple mechanisms in single systems must be considered when investigating biotic resistance hypotheses.