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Am Nat. 2011 Sep;178(3):411-8. doi: 10.1086/661242.

Species diversity, invasion, and alternative community states in sequentially assembled communities.

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School of Biology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia 30332, USA.


The relationship between resident species diversity and invasion is generally negative in experimental studies but takes various forms in observational studies of natural communities. We hypothesized that stochastic species colonization, which applies to natural communities but not to experimental communities generally assembled through simultaneous species introduction, may lead to nonnegative diversity-invasion relationships via incurring priority effects. To test this hypothesis, we manipulated both resident species diversity and colonization history in sequentially assembled communities of bacterivorous protist species. We found that, despite a significant effect of assembly history on invader abundance, invader abundance decreased with diversity. This result was largely driven by positive selection effects associated with the dominant influence of an invasion-resistant species, which shared the most similar resource use pattern with the invader, and by the overall weak priority effects observed for the resident communities. Increasing species diversity, however, significantly strengthened priority effects, providing the first experimental support for the idea that larger species pools promote alternative community states. We suggest that elucidating mechanisms regulating the strength of priority effects may help in understanding variation in diversity-invasion relationships among natural communities.

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