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Nat Commun. 2013;4:1383. doi: 10.1038/ncomms2392.

Environmental conditions and community evenness determine the outcome of biological invasion.

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Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, Laboratory of Microbial Ecology and Technology, Ghent University, Coupure Links 653, B-9000 Gent, Belgium.


Biological invasion is widely studied, however, conclusions on the outcome of this process mainly originate from observations in systems that leave a large number of experimental variables uncontrolled. Here using a fully controlled system consisting of assembled bacterial communities, we evaluate the degree of invasion and the effect on the community functionality in relation to the initial community evenness under specific environmental stressors. We show that evenness influences the level of invasion and that the introduced species can promote functionality under stress. The evenness-invasibility relationship is negative in the absence and neutral in the presence of stress. Under these conditions, the introduced species is able to maintain the functionality of uneven communities. These results indicate that communities, initially having the same genetic background, in the presence of the same invader, react in a different way with respect to invasibility and functionality depending on specific environmental conditions and community evenness.

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