Dominant species establishment may influence invasion resistance more than phylogenetic or functional diversity

Adrienne R. Ernst, Rebecca S. Barak, Mary Claire Glasenhardt, Andrea T. Kramer, Daniel J. Larkin, Hannah E. Marx, Renata Poulton Kamakura, Andrew L. Hipp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Phylogenetic and functional diversity are theorised to increase invasion resistance. Experimentally testing whether plant communities higher in these components of diversity are less invasible is an important step for guiding restoration designs. To investigate how phylogenetic and functional diversity of vegetation affect invasion resistance in a restoration setting, we used experimental prairie restoration plots. The experiment crossed three levels of phylogenetic diversity with two levels of functional diversity while species richness was held constant. We allowed invaders to colonise plots; these included native species from neighbouring plots and non-native invasive species from a surrounding old field. We tested if invader biomass was influenced by phylogenetic and functional diversity, and phylogenetic and hierarchical trait distances between invaders and planted species. We binned each invader into three categories: native species from neighbouring experimental plots (site-specific invaders), native species not part of the experimental species pool (native invaders) or non-native species (non-native invaders). Counter to expectation, both non-native and native invaders became more abundant in more phylogenetically diverse plots. However, plots with higher abundance of planted Asteraceae, a dominant family of the tallgrass prairie, had lower invader biomass for both native and non-native invaders. We also found that hierarchical trait differences shaped invasion. The species that became most abundant were non-native invaders that were taller, and native invaders with low specific leaf area relative to planted species. Site-specific invaders were not influenced by any plot-level diversity metrics tested. Synthesis and application: Our results suggest that greater phylogenetic diversity may lower resistance to invasion. This effect may be due to more even but sparser niche packing in high-diversity plots, associated with greater availability of unsaturated niche space for colonisation. However, trait composition fostered invasion resistance in two ways in our study. First, establishment of native species with strongly dominant traits may confer invasion resistance. Second, species mixes that optimise trait differences between planted vegetation and likely invaders may enhance invasion-resistance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2652-2664
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Applied Ecology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. Journal of Applied Ecology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Ecological Society.


  • biotic resistance
  • community assembly
  • diversity-invasibility
  • invasion ecology
  • invasion paradox
  • prairie
  • trait hierarchy


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