Mechanisms of biotic resistance across complex life cycles



  1. Biotic resistance is the ability of communities to inhibit the establishment, spread or impact of novel species. However, the interactions that underlie biotic resistance depend heavily on the contexts in which species interact. Consequently, studies of biotic resistance that consider single processes, patches, species or life-history stages may provide an incomplete picture of the capacity for communities to resist invasion.
  2. Many organisms have multiphasic life cycles, where individuals can occupy distinct niches at different stages of the life history. Generally, studies of biotic resistance focus on interactions within a single life-history stage, and interactions at other life-history stages are overlooked. Here, we demonstrate that different mechanisms of biotic resistance occur across the life history and together limit the invasion success of an introduced marine invertebrate (Ciona intestinalis) in Northern California.
  3. We tested the role of interactions (competition and predation) with the resident community in limiting the abundance of Ciona through experiments conducted on fertilization, larval survival, settlement, early postsettlement survival, and the survival of juveniles and adults.
  4. Under some circumstances, Ciona became abundant in mid-successional stages and showed more rapid growth rates than a morphologically similar native species, Ascidia ceratodes. However, predators reduced Ciona abundance much more than that of Ascidia at several life stages. Furthermore, Ciona appeared to be a weaker competitor at the adult stage. Early life-history interactions with other sessile species at the fertilization, larval and recruit stages had modest to no effects on Ciona abundance.
  5. The presence of biotic resistance mechanisms acting at multiple life stages, and potentially under different conditions, suggests that different components of biotic resistance interact to enhance the resident community's resistance to invasion.