Identifying niche and fitness dissimilarities in invaded marine macroalgal canopies within the context of contemporary coexistence theory.
Contemporary coexistence theory provides a framework for predicting invasiveness and impact of Invasive Non-Native Species (INNS) by incorporating differences in niche and fitness between INNS and co-occurring native species. The widespread invasive kelp Undaria pinnatifida is considered a high-risk INNS, although a robust evidence base regarding its invasiveness and impact is lacking in many regions. Invaded macroalgal canopies at nine coastal sites in the southwest UK were studied over three years to discern whether Undaria is coexisting or competing with native canopy-forming species across different habitat types. Spatial, temporal and depth-related trends in species distributions and abundance were recorded within intertidal and subtidal rocky reef as well as on marina pontoons. A primary succession experiment also examined competitive interactions between species. In rocky reef habitats, Undaria had lower fitness compared to long-lived native perennials, but was able to coexist due to niche dissimilarity between species. In contrast, Undaria was likely to be competing with short-lived native annuals on rocky reef due to large niche overlap and similar fitness. In marina habitats, Undaria dominated over all other canopy formers due to low niche diversification and higher fitness. Generalisations on INNS impact cannot be made across habitats or species, without considering many abiotic factors and biotic interactions.