Management strategies for plant invasions: manipulating productivity, disturbance, and competition


Michael A. Huston, Department of Biology, Texas State University, San Marcos, TX 78666, USA. E-mail:


The traditional approach to understanding invasions has focused on properties of the invasive species and of the communities that are invaded. A well-established concept is that communities with higher species diversity should be more resistant to invaders. However, most recently published field data contradict this theory, finding instead that areas with high native plant diversity also have high exotic plant diversity. An alternative environment-based approach to understanding patterns of invasions assumes that native and exotic species respond similarly to environmental conditions, and thus predicts that they should have similar patterns of abundance and diversity. Establishment and growth of native and exotic species are predicted to vary in response to the interaction of plant growth rates with the frequency and intensity of mortality-causing disturbances. This theory distinguishes between the probability of establishment and the probability of dominance, predicting that establishment should be highest under unproductive and undisturbed conditions and also disturbed productive conditions. However, the probability of dominance by exotic species, and thus of potential negative impacts on diversity, is highest under productive conditions. The theory predicts that a change in disturbance regime can have opposite effects in environments with contrasting levels of productivity. Manipulation of productivity and disturbance provides opportunities for resource managers to influence the interactions among species, offering the potential to reduce or eliminate some types of invasive species.