Invasion intensity influences scale-dependent effects of an exotic species on native plant diversity.
Invasive plant species reduce the diversity of natives by altering habitats or disturbance regimes, but it is less clear whether they do so via competitive exclusion. Here, we show that invader abundance alters scale-dependent competitive effects of invasion on native plant richness. Large-seeded exotic annual Erodium cicutarium invaded a site that manipulated rodent granivores. The invader became dominant on all plots but attained its highest abundance on plots that removed rodents. Invasion reduced plant abundance but not evenness; site-wide richness did not change over time on control plots but declined significantly on rodent removal plots. Species-area relationships within plots changed differently with invasion intensity: slopes increased and y-intercepts decreased on control plots relative to rodent removal plots. Changes in species-area slopes and y-intercepts following invasion suggest that common rather than rare species were most strongly impacted at small spatial scales on control plots, while common and rare species were both negatively impacted at all spatial scales on rodent removal plots. Small-seeded species declined in abundance following invasion more so than large-seeded species, indicative of competitive interactions mediated by seed size. These results reveal variation in scale-dependent competitive effects of invasion on native richness associated with invasion intensity.