Invasions: the trail behind, the path ahead, and a test of a disturbing idea

Authors

  • Angela T. Moles,

    Corresponding author
    1. Evolution & Ecology Research Centre, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia
      Correspondence author. E-mail: a.moles@unsw.edu.au
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  • Habacuc Flores-Moreno,

    1. Evolution & Ecology Research Centre, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia
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  • Stephen P. Bonser,

    1. Evolution & Ecology Research Centre, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia
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  • David I. Warton,

    1. School of Mathematics and Statistics and Evolution & Ecology Research Centre, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia
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  • Aveliina Helm,

    1. Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences, University of Tartu, Lai 40, 51005 Tartu, Estonia
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  • Laura Warman,

    1. Evolution & Ecology Research Centre, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia
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  • David J. Eldridge,

    1. Evolution & Ecology Research Centre, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia
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  • Enrique Jurado,

    1. School of Forest Sciences, Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León, A.P. 41, Linares, N.L. 67700, México
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  • Frank A. Hemmings,

    1. Evolution & Ecology Research Centre, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia
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  • Peter B. Reich,

    1. Department of Forest Resources, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN 55108, USA
    2. Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, University of Western Sydney, Richmond, NSW 2753, Australia
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  • Jeannine Cavender-Bares,

    1. Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN 55108, USA
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  • Eric W. Seabloom,

    1. Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN 55108, USA
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  • Margaret M. Mayfield,

    1. The University of Queensland, School of Biological Sciences, Brisbane, Qld 4072, Australia
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  • Douglas Sheil,

    1. Institute for Tropical Forest Conservation – Mbarara University of Science and Technology, Box 44 Kabale, Uganda
    2. Center for International Forestry Research, P.O. Box 113 BOCBD, Bogor 1600, Indonesia
    3. School of Environmental Science and Management, Southern Cross University, PO Box 157, Lismore, NSW 2480, Australia
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  • Jonathan C. Djietror,

    1. Laboratory of Ecological Genetics, Graduate School of Environmental Science, Hokkaido University, North Ward North 10 West 5, 060-0808 Sapporo, Japan
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  • Pablo L. Peri,

    1. INTA, CONICET, Universidad Nacional de la Patagonia Austral, 9400 Río Gallegos, Santa Cruz, Argentina
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  • Lucas Enrico,

    1. Instituto Multidisciplinario de Biología Vegetal (CONICET – UNC) FCEFyN – Universidad Nacional Córdoba, CC 495, CP 5000 Córdoba, Argentina
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  • Marcelo R. Cabido,

    1. Instituto Multidisciplinario de Biología Vegetal (CONICET – UNC) FCEFyN – Universidad Nacional Córdoba, CC 495, CP 5000 Córdoba, Argentina
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  • Samantha A. Setterfield,

    1. Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods, Charles Darwin University, Darwin, NT 0909, Australia
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  • Caroline E. R. Lehmann,

    1. Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia
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  • Fiona J. Thomson

    1. Landcare Research, P.O. Box 40, Lincoln 7640, New Zealand
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Correspondence author. E-mail: a.moles@unsw.edu.au

Summary

1. We provide a brief overview of progress in our understanding of introduced plant species.

2. Three main conclusions emerge from our review: (i) Many lines of research, including the search for traits that make species good invaders, or that make ecosystems susceptible to invasion, are yielding idiosyncratic results. To move forward, we advocate a more synthetic approach that incorporates a range of different types of information about the introduced species and the communities and habitats they are invading. (ii) Given the growing evidence for the adaptive capacity of both introduced species and recipient communities, we need to consider the implications of the long-term presence of introduced species in our ecosystems. (iii) Several foundational ideas in invasion biology have become widely accepted without appropriate testing, or despite equivocal evidence from empirical tests. One such idea is the suggestion that disturbance facilitates invasion.

3. We use data from 200 sites around the world to provide a broad test of the hypothesis that invasions are better predicted by a change in disturbance regime than by disturbance per se. Neither disturbance nor change in disturbance regime explained more than 7% of the variation in the % of cover or species richness contributed by introduced species. However, change in disturbance regime was a significantly better predictor than was disturbance per se, explaining approximately twice as much variation as did disturbance.

4.Synthesis. Disturbance is a weak predictor of invasion. To increase predictive power, we need to consider multiple variables (both intrinsic and extrinsic to the site) simultaneously. Variables that describe the changes sites have undergone may be particularly informative.

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