Species diversity reduces invasion success in pathogen-regulated communities

Lindsay A. Turnbull, Jonathan M. Levine, Alexander J.F. Fergus, Jana S. Petermann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


The loss of natural enemies is thought to explain why certain invasive species are so spectacularly successful in their introduced range. However, if losing natural enemies leads to unregulated population growth, this implies that native species are themselves normally subject to natural enemy regulation. One possible widespread mechanism of natural enemy regulation is negative soil feedbacks, in which resident species growing on home soils are disadvantaged because of a build-up of species-specific soil pathogens. Here we construct simple models in which pathogens cause resident species to suffer reduced competitive ability on home soils and consider the consequences of such pathogen regulation for potential invading species. We show that the probability of successful invasion and its timescale depend strongly on the competitive ability of the invader on resident soils, but are unaffected by whether or not the invader also suffers reduced competitive ability on home soils (i.e. pathogen regulation). This is because, at the start of an invasion, the invader is rare and hence mostly encounters resident soils. However, the lack of pathogen regulation does allow the invader to achieve an unusually high population density. We also show that increasing resident species diversity in a pathogen-regulated community increases invasion resistance by reducing the frequency of home-site encounters. Diverse communities are more resistant to invasion than monocultures of the component species: they preclude a greater range of potential invaders, slow the timescale of invasion and reduce invader population size. Thus, widespread pathogen regulation of resident species is a potential explanation for the empirical observation that diverse communities are more invasion resistant.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1040-1046
Number of pages7
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2010
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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