Community assembly and invasion: An experimental test of neutral versus niche processes

Joseph Fargione, Cynthia S. Brown, David Tilman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

595 Scopus citations


A species-addition experiment showed that prairie grasslands have a structured, nonneutral assembly process in which resident species inhibit, via resource consumption, the establishment and growth of species with similar resource use patterns and in which the success of invaders decreases as diversity increases. In our experiment, species in each of four functional guilds were introduced, as seed, into 147 prairie-grassland plots that previously had been established and maintained to have different compositions and diversities. Established species most strongly inhibited introduced species from their own functional guild. Introduced species attained lower abundances when functionally similar species were abundant and when established species left lower levels of resources unconsumed, which occurred at lower species richness. Residents of the C4 grass functional guild, the dominant guild in nearby native grasslands, reduced the major limiting resource, soil nitrate, to the lowest levels in midsummer and exhibited the greatest inhibitory effect on introduced species. This simple mechanism of greater competitive inhibition of invaders that are similar to established abundant species could, in theory, explain many of the patterns observed in plant communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8916-8920
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number15
StatePublished - Jul 22 2003


  • Biodiversity
  • Ecological niche
  • Functional guilds
  • Invasibility
  • Resource competition


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