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Community ecology theory as a framework for biological invasions

Abstract

Community ecology theory can be used to understand biological invasions by applying recent niche concepts to alien species and the communities that they invade. These ideas lead to the concept of ‘niche opportunity’, which defines conditions that promote invasions in terms of resources, natural enemies, the physical environment, interactions between these factors, and the manner in which they vary in time and space. Niche opportunities vary naturally between communities but might be greatly increased by disruption of communities, especially if the original community members are less well adapted to the new conditions. Recent niche theory clarifies the prediction that low niche opportunities (invasion resistance) result from high species diversity. Conflicting empirical patterns of invasion resistance are potentially explained by covarying external factors. These various ideas derived from community ecology provide a predictive framework for invasion ecology.

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