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Keywords:

  • Ecological specialization;
  • invasive species;
  • nonnative species

Species invasions are extremely common and are vastly outpacing the ability of resource agencies to address each invasion, one species at a time. Management actions that target the whole landscape or ecosystem may provide more cost-effective protection against the establishment of invasive species than a species-by-species approach. To explore what ecosystem-level actions might effectively reduce invasions, we developed a multispecies, multihabitat metapopulation model. We assume that species that successfully establish themselves outside their native range tend to be habitat generalists and that a tradeoff exists between competitive ability and habitat breadth, such that habitat specialists are competitively superior to habitat generalists. In this model, habitat destruction, fragmentation, and short-term disturbances all favor invasion by habitat generalists, despite the inferior competitive abilities of generalist species. Our model results illustrate that providing relatively undisturbed habitat and preventing further habitat degradation and fragmentation can provide a highly cost-effective defense against invasive species.