Invasion Biology

Sunday, June 04, 2006


Invasiveness, invasibility and the role of environmental stress in the spread of non-native plants

Invasion ecology, the study of how organisms spread in habitats to which they are not native, asks both about the invasiveness of species and the invasibility of habitats: Which species are most likely to become invasive? Which habitats are most susceptible to invasion? To set the stage for considering these questions with regard to plants, we offer a two-way classification of nativeness and invasiveness that distinguishes natives, non-invasive non-natives and invasive non-natives. We then consider the current state of knowledge about invasiveness and invasibility. Despite much investigation, it has proven difficult to identify traits that consistently predict invasiveness. This may be largely because different traits favour invasiveness in different habitats. It has proven easier to identify types of habitats that are relatively invasible, such as islands and riverbanks. Factors thought to render habitats invasible include low intensities of competition, altered disturbance regimes and low levels of environmental stress, especially high resource availability. These factors probably often interact; the combination of altered disturbance with high resource availability may particularly promote invasibility. When biotic factors control invasibility, non-natives that are unlike native species may prove more invasive; the converse may also be true. We end with a simple conceptual model for cases in which high levels of environmental stress should and should not reduce invasibility. In some cases, it may be possible to manipulate stress to control biological invasions by plants.


Difficulty A

Dr Richard Knight Co-ordinator: National Information Society Learnerships - Ecological Informatics
Department of Biodiversity and Conservation Biology
University of the Western Cape
Private Bag X17
Bellville 7535

Phone 27 + 21 + 959 3940
Fax 27 + 21 + 959 1237



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