Biological Invasions

, Volume 18, Issue 12, pp 3535–3546

Competition, niche opportunities and the successful invasion of natural habitats

  • Miquel Vall-llosera
  • Francesc Llimona
  • Miquel de Cáceres
  • Sergi Sales
  • Daniel Sol
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10530-016-1246-7

Cite this article as:
Vall-llosera, M., Llimona, F., de Cáceres, M. et al. Biol Invasions (2016) 18: 3535. doi:10.1007/s10530-016-1246-7


Fundamental to the establishment of exotic species in natural environments is that the invader finds an appropriate niche in the novel environment. However, it is currently unclear whether this is achieved by competitively displacing native species from their niches and/or by exploiting niche opportunities not monopolized by native species. Combining phylogenetic analyses with field observations and an ecological opportunity experiment, we here contrasted the competition and niche opportunity hypotheses as explanations for the success of an alien passerine, the Red-billed Leiothrix Leiothrix lutea, in a forest reserve from the Western Mediterranean basin. The invasion of Leiothrix provided a rare opportunity to assess the relative importance of each hypothesis because the avian community of the reserve has been systematically surveyed for the last 27 years, and hence species abundance data were available before and after the irruption of the invader. The invader established itself with relatively little resistance or consequences for native species, reflecting the opportunist-generalist nature of both the invader and the invaded native community. Although we cannot completely discard a role of competition, these results yield greater support to the crucial importance of niche opportunities to invade natural environments.


Alien species Biotic resistance Community specialization Foraging niche Phylogenetic community structure Population trends 

Supplementary material

10530_2016_1246_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (613 kb)
Online Resource 1: Supplementary figures (PDF 614 kb)
10530_2016_1246_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (143 kb)
Online Resource 2: Supplementary tables (PDF 143 kb)

Funding information

Funder NameGrant NumberFunding Note
Departament d'Universitats, Recerca i Societat de la Informació
  • FI-DGR ref. 2006FI 01265
European Social Fund
  • 2005SGR00090
Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte (ES)
  • CGL2010-21838
Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte
  • CSD2008-00040

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Miquel Vall-llosera
    • 1
  • Francesc Llimona
    • 2
  • Miquel de Cáceres
    • 1
    • 3
  • Sergi Sales
    • 2
  • Daniel Sol
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.CREAF (Centre de Recerca Ecològica i Aplicacions Forestals)Cerdanyola del VallèsSpain
  2. 2.Can Balasc Biological StationCollserola Park ConsortiumBarcelonaSpain
  3. 3.CTFC (Centre Tecnològic Forestal de Catalunya)SolsonaSpain
  4. 4.CEAB-CSIC (Centre d’Estudis Avançats de Blanes-Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas)BlanesSpain

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