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Keywords:

  • Biological invasion;
  • Conceptual framework;
  • Invasive species;
  • Nonnative;
  • Species introduction

Abstract

Species invasion is a complex, multifactor process. To encapsulate this complexity into an intuitively appealing, simple, and straightforward manner, we present an organizational framework in the form of an invasion triangle. The invasion triangle is an adaptation of the disease triangle used by plant pathologists to help envision and evaluate interactions among a host, a pathogen, and an environment. Our modification of this framework for invasive species incorporates the major processes that result in invasion as the three sides of the triangle: (1) attributes of the potential invader; (2) biotic characteristics of a potentially invaded site; and (3) environmental conditions of the site. The invasion triangle also includes the impact of external influences on each side of the triangle, such as climate and land use change. This paper introduces the invasion triangle, discusses how accepted invasion hypotheses are integrated in this framework, describes how the invasion triangle can be used to focus research and management, and provides examples of application. The framework provided by the invasion triangle is easy to use by both researchers and managers and also applicable at any level of data intensity, from expert opinion to highly controlled experiments. The organizational framework provided by the invasion triangle is beneficial for understanding and predicting why species are invasive in specific environments, for identifying knowledge gaps, for facilitating communication, and for directing management in regard to invasive species.