The imminent decline in species diversity coupled with increasing exotic species introductions has provoked investigation into the role of resident diversity in community resistance to exotic species colonization. Here we present the results of a field study using an experimental method in which diversity was altered by removal of less abundant species and the resulting disturbance was controlled for by removal of an equivalent amount of biomass of the most common species from paired plots. Following these manipulations, the exotic grass, Lolium temulentum, was introduced. We found that exotic species establishment was higher in plots in which diversity was successfully reduced by removal treatments and was inversely related to imposed species richness. These results demonstrate that less common species can significantly influence invasion events and highlight the potential role of less common species in the maintenance of ecosystem function.