Long-term propagule pressure overwhelms initial community determination of invader success.
The role of plant diversity in reducing invasions has generated decades of debate. Diverse communities might be more resistant to invasion because the communities contain resident species that are functionally similar to the invader (limiting similarity), or multiple species use the range of available resources more effectively (complementarity) than single species. However, the correlation of native and exotic diversity often reverses, becoming positive, with increasing spatial and temporal scale, in a phenomenon called the invasion paradox. We addressed two groups of hypotheses related to this paradox, broadly that (1) functional diversity and identity resist invasion initially, via complementarity or limiting similarity; and (2) disturbance and propagule pressure weaken the effects of functional diversity and identity on invader success through time. Using long-term data from experimental serpentine grassland assemblages in California, we examined how the abundance of a high impact invader, yellow starthistle (Centaurea solstitialis), related to functional diversity, functional dissimilarity, pocket gopher disturbance, and propagule pressure. We also conducted a single-season experiment in which we seeded disturbed and undisturbed areas and quantified invader success the following year. Neither diversity, nor dissimilarity, nor disturbance significantly impacted the success of C. solstitialis during the years of this study. Instead, propagule pressure was the single most important predictor of C. solstitialis abundance. We consolidated these findings into a novel conceptual model of invader success to illustrate how propagule input may outweigh community resistance through time, and what implications these dynamics have for the invasion paradox.