Original Paper

Biological Invasions

, Volume 13, Issue 5, pp 1255-1268

First online:

How common are invasion-induced ecosystem impacts?

  • Daniel SimberloffAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Tennessee Email author 

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It would be an exaggeration to argue that most invasions produce ecosystem impacts, and the term should be reserved for cases in which many species in an ecosystem are affected. However, certain facts suggest that true ecosystem impacts are more common than is normally assumed. First, the term “ecosystem impact” has often been reserved for cases in which the nutrient regime or nutrient cycling is affected, whereas physical structural and other changes in ecosystems ought to be included. Second, as with all ecology, very few systems and species have been studied relative to all those that exist, so it is likely that many ecosystem impacts remain to be detected. Third, there are many types of impacts, many are idiosyncratic, many are subtle, and many are indirect, so it is likely that many impacts have simply not been recognized even in studied systems. Finally, the frequency of the lag phenomenon in invasions implies that at least some existing non-native species that are currently having little or no impact will eventually have much greater ones. These facts suggest that, even if it would be an overstatement to say that most invasions cause ecosystem impacts, it would not be more of an overstatement than the common assertion that very few introduced species have any significant impact.


Fire regime Habitat structure Invasional meltdown Lag time Nutrient cycling