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BIODIVERSITY RESEARCH: Native-exotic species richness relationships across spatial scales and biotic homogenization in wetland plant communities of Illinois, USA


Correspondence: Hong Qian, Research and Collections Center, Illinois State Museum, Springfield, IL 62703, USA.
E-mail:, and
Hua Chen, Biology Department, University of Illinois at Springfield, Springfield, IL 62703, USA.


Aim  To examine native-exotic species richness relationships across spatial scales and corresponding biotic homogenization in wetland plant communities.

Location  Illinois, USA.

Methods  We analysed the native-exotic species richness relationship for vascular plants at three spatial scales (small, 0.25 m2 of sample area; medium, 1 m2 of sample area; large, 5 m2 of sample area) in 103 wetlands across Illinois. At each scale, Spearman’s correlation coefficient between native and exotic richness was calculated. We also investigated the potential for biotic homogenization by comparing all species surveyed in a wetland community (from the large sample area) with the species composition in all other wetlands using paired comparisons of their Jaccard’s and Simpson’s similarity indices.

Results  At large and medium scales, native richness was positively correlated with exotic richness, with the strength of the correlation decreasing from the large to the medium scale; at the smallest scale, the native-exotic richness correlation was negative. The average value for homogenization indices was 0.096 and 0.168, using Jaccard’s and Simpson’s indices, respectively, indicating that these wetland plant communities have been homogenized because of invasion by exotic species.

Main Conclusions  Our study demonstrated a clear shift from a positive to a negative native-exotic species richness relationship from larger to smaller spatial scales. The negative native-exotic richness relationship that we found is suggested to result from direct biotic interactions (competitive exclusion) between native and exotic species, whereas positive correlations likely reflect the more prominent influence of habitat heterogeneity on richness at larger scales. Our finding of homogenization at the community level extends conclusions from previous studies having found this pattern at much larger spatial scales. Furthermore, these results suggest that even while exhibiting a positive native-exotic richness relationship, community level biotas can/are still being homogenized because of exotic species invasion.