Journal article

Mechanistic reconciliation of community and invasion ecology

Research Areas

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Publication Details

Author list: Latombe G, Richardson D, McGeoch M, Altwegg R, Catford J, Chase J, Courchamp F, Esler K, Jeschke J, Landi P, Measey J, Midgley G, Minoarivelo H, Rodger J, Hui C

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell

Publication year: 2021

Journal: Ecosphere

Volume number: 12

Issue number: 2

Start page: 1

End page: 23

Total number of pages: 23

eISSN: 2150-8925


Community and invasion ecology have mostly grown independently. There is substantial

overlap in the processes captured by different models in the two fields, and various frameworks have been

developed to reduce this redundancy and synthesize information content. Despite broad recognition that

community and invasion ecology are interconnected, a process-based framework synthesizing models

across these two fields is lacking. Here we review 65 representative community and invasion models and

propose a common framework articulated around six processes (dispersal, drift, abiotic interactions,

within-guild interactions, cross-guild interactions, and genetic changes). The framework is designed to

synthesize the content of the two fields, provide a general perspective on their development, and enable

their comparison. The application of this framework and of a novel method based on network theory

reveals some lack of coherence between the two fields, despite some historical similarities. Community

ecology models are characterized by combinations of multiple processes, likely reflecting the search for an

overarching theory to explain community assembly and structure, drawing predominantly on interaction

processes, but also accounting largely for the other processes. In contrast, most models in invasion ecology

invoke fewer processes and focus more on interactions between introduced species and their novel biotic

and abiotic environment. The historical dominance of interaction processes and their independent developments

in the two fields is also reflected in the lower level of coherence for models involving interactions,

compared to models involving dispersal, drift, and genetic changes. It appears that community ecology,

with a longer history than invasion ecology, has transitioned from the search for single explanations for

patterns observed in nature to investigate how processes may interact mechanistically, thereby generating

and testing hypotheses. Our framework paves the way for a similar transition in invasion ecology, to better

capture the dynamics of multiple alien species introduced in complex communities. Reciprocally, applying

insights from invasion to community ecology will help us understand and predict the future of ecological

communities in the Anthropocene, in which human activities are weakening species’ natural boundaries.

Ultimately, the successful integration of the two fields could advance a predictive ecology that is urgently

required in a rapidly changing world.


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Last updated on 2021-01-06 at 11:51