Perpectives and paradigms

Biological Invasions

, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 927-939

First online:

Can Invasive Species Facilitate Native Species? Evidence of How, When, and Why These Impacts Occur

  • Laura F. RodriguezAffiliated withSection of Evolution and Ecology, University of CaliforniaInstituto de Biología, Ecología, y Conservación Email author 

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Although the predatory and competitive impacts of biological invasions are well documented, facilitation of native species by non-indigenous species is frequently overlooked. A search through recent ecological literature found that facilitative interactions between invasive and native species occur in a wide range of habitats, can have cascading effects across trophic levels, can re-structure communities, and can lead to evolutionary changes. These are critical findings that, until now, have been mostly absent from analyses of ecological impacts of biological invasions. Here I present evidence for several mechanisms that exemplify how exotic species can facilitate native species. These mechanisms include habitat modification, trophic subsidy, pollination, competitive release, and predatory release. Habitat modification is the most frequently documented mechanism, reflecting the drastic changes generated by the invasion of functionally novel habitat engineers. Further, I predict that facilitative impacts on native species will be most likely when invasive species provide a limiting resource, increase habitat complexity, functionally replace a native species, or ameliorate predation or competition. Finally, three types of facilitation (novel, substitutive, and indirect) define why exotic species can lead to facilitation of native species. It is evident that understanding biological invasions at the community and ecosystem levels will be more accurate if we integrate facilitative interactions into future ecological research. Since facilitative impacts of biological invasions can occur with native endangered species, and can have wide-ranging impacts, these results also have important implications for management, eradication, and restoration.

Key words

competitive release facilitation habitat modification indirect facilitation invasive species novel facilitation pollination predatory release substitutive facilitation trophic subsidy