The pervasive impact of invasive species has motivated considerable research to understand how characteristics of invaded communities, such as native species diversity, affect the establishment of invasive species. Efforts to identify general mechanisms that limit invasion success, however, have been frustrated by disagreement between landscape-scale observations that generally find a positive relationship between native diversity and invasibility and smaller-scale experiments that consistently reveal competitive interactions that generate the opposite relationship. Here we experimentally elucidate the mechanism explaining the large-scale positive associations between invasion success and native intertidal diversity revealed in our landscape-scale surveys of New England shorelines. Experimental manipulations revealed this large-scale pattern is driven by a facilitation cascade where ecosystem-engineering species interact nonlinearly to enhance native diversity and invasion success by alleviating thermal stress and substrate instability. Our findings reveal that large-scale diversity–invasion relationships can be explained by small-scale positive interactions that commonly occur across multiple trophic levels and functional groups. We argue that facilitation has played an important but unrecognized role in the invasion of other well studied systems, and will be of increasing importance with anticipated climate change.