The invasion hierarchy: ecological and evolutionary consequences of invasions in the fossil record.
Species invasions are pervasive in Earth history, yet the ecological and evolutionary consequences vary greatly. Ancient invasion events can be organized in a hierarchy of increasing invasion intensity from ephemeral invasions to globally pervasive invasive regimes. Each level exhibits emergent properties exceeding the sum of interactions at lower levels. Hierarchy levels correspond to, but do not always exactly correlate with, geographic extent of invasion success. The ecological impacts of lower-level impacts can be negligible or result in temporary community accommodation. Invasion events at moderate to high levels of the hierarchy permanently alter ecological communities, regional faunas, and global ecosystems. The prevalence of invasive species results in evolutionary changes by fostering niche evolution, differential survival of ecologically generalized taxa, faunal homogenization, and suppressing speciation. These impacts can contribute to mass extinctions and biodiversity crises that alter the trajectory of ecological and evolutionary patterns of life. The fossil record provides a long-term record of how invasion impacts may scale up through time, which can augment ecological studies of modern species invasions.