Changes in the hydrological regime affect the phenomenon of invasion by plant species along riparian systems. The dynamics of exotic (non-native) and native species were examined at five sites that differed in exposure to hydrological disturbance (floods) during three consecutive years (medium, wet and dry years). When considering the disturbance gradient, exotic plants were favoured by direct exposure to floods (main channel) and by high flood frequencies. The response to year to year changes in hydrology was rapid for both native and exotic communities. However, the exotic plants responded more rapidly and were favoured by a dry year. A general framework including human and natural factors involved in invasions by exotic plants along rivers is presented.