The Invasion Criterion: A Common Currency for Ecological Research

Tess Nahanni Grainger, Jonathan M. Levine, Benjamin Gilbert

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

97 Scopus citations


According to the invasion criterion, stable coexistence requires that all species in a community increase in abundance when rare, which occurs when stabilizing mechanisms cause intraspecific competition to be stronger than interspecific competition. This simple principle has traditionally been applied to tests of local coexistence in a narrow range of ecological systems. However, new theory founded on the invasion criterion is emerging across ecological fields ranging from eco-evolutionary dynamics to global change to macroecology. Concurrently, straightforward methods for testing the invasion criterion have been proposed, but remain underused. Here, we identify the invasion criterion as a common thread linking emerging ecological theory, and we bring this theory together with the methods that can be used to test it.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)925-935
Number of pages11
JournalTrends in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


  • fitness difference
  • invasion growth rates
  • modern coexistence theory
  • mutual invasibility
  • stabilizing niche difference


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