Functional group diversity, resource preemption and the genesis of invasion resistance in a community of marine algae


  • Kevin H. Britton-Simmons

K. H. Britton-Simmons, Dept of Ecology and Evolution, The Univ. of Chicago, 1101 E. 57th Street, Chicago, IL 60637, USA. Present address: Univ. of Washington, Friday Harbor Laboratories, 620 University Road, Friday Harbor, WA 98250, USA (


Although many studies have investigated how community characteristics such as diversity and disturbance relate to invasibility, the mechanisms underlying biotic resistance to introduced species are not well understood. I manipulated the functional group composition of native algal communities and invaded them with the introduced, Japanese seaweed Sargassum muticum to understand how individual functional groups contributed to overall invasion resistance. The results suggested that space preemption by crustose and turfy algae inhibited S. muticum recruitment and that light preemption by canopy and understory algae reduced S. muticum survivorship. However, other mechanisms I did not investigate could have contributed to these two results. In this marine community the sequential preemption of key resources by different functional groups in different stages of the invasion generated resistance to invasion by S. muticum. Rather than acting collectively on a single resource the functional groups in this system were important for preempting either space or light, but not both resources. My experiment has important implications for diversity–invasibility studies, which typically look for an effect of diversity on individual resources. Overall invasion resistance will be due to the additive effects of individual functional groups (or species) summed over an invader's life cycle. Therefore, the cumulative effect of multiple functional groups (or species) acting on multiple resources is an alternative mechanism that could generate negative relationships between diversity and invasibility in a variety of biological systems.