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Ecology. 2006 Nov;87(11):2851-61.

The invasibility of marine algal assemblages: role of functional diversity and identity.

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  • 1Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, Citadel Hill, Plymouth PL1 2PB, United Kingdom.


The emergence of the biodiversity-ecosystem functioning debate in the last decade has renewed interest in understanding why some communities are more easily invaded than others and how the impact of invasion on recipient communities and ecosystems varies. To date most of the research on invasibility has focused on taxonomic diversity, i.e., species richness. However, functional diversity of the communities should be more relevant for the resistance of the community to invasions, as the extent of functional differences among the species in an assemblage is a major determinant of ecosystem processes. Although coastal marine habitats are among the most heavily invaded ecosystems, studies on community invasibility and vulnerability in these habitats are scarce. We carried out a manipulative field experiment in tide pools of the rocky intertidal to test the hypothesis that increasing functional richness reduces the susceptibility of macroalgal communities to invasion. We selected a priori four functional groups on the basis of previous knowledge of local species characteristics: encrusting, turf, subcanopy, and canopy species. Synthetic assemblages containing one, two, three, or four different functional groups of seaweeds were created, and invasion by native species was monitored over an eight-month period. Cover and resource availability in the assemblages with only one functional group showed different patterns in the use of space and light, confirming true functional differences among our groups. Experimental results showed that the identity of functional groups was more important than functional richness in determining the ability of macroalgal communities to resist invasion and that resistance to invasion was resource-mediated.

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