Disentangling the mechanisms underpinning disturbance-mediated invasion.
Disturbances can play a major role in biological invasions: by destroying biomass, they alter habitat and resource abundances. Previous field studies suggest that disturbance-mediated invader success is a consequence of resource influxes, but the importance of other potential covarying causes, notably the opening up of habitats, have yet to be directly tested. Using experimental populations of the bacterium Pseudomonas fluorescens, we determined the relative importance of disturbance-mediated habitat opening and resource influxes, plus any interaction between them, for invader success of two ecologically distinct morphotypes. Resource addition increased invasibility, while habitat opening had little impact and did not interact with resource addition. Both invaders behaved similarly, despite occupying different ecological niches in the microcosms. Treatment also affected the composition of the resident population, which further affected invader success. Our results provide experimental support for the observation that resource input is a key mechanism through which disturbance increases invasibility.