Mutualistic interactions and biological invasions
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Mutualisms structure ecosystems and mediate their functioning. They also enhance invasions of many alien species. Invasions disrupt native mutualisms, often leading to population declines, reduced biodiversity, and altered ecosystem functioning. Focusing on three main types of mutualisms (pollination, seed dispersal, and plant-microbial symbioses) and drawing on examples from different ecosystems and from species- and community-level studies, we review the key mechanisms whereby such positive interactions mediate invasions and are in turn influenced by invasions. High interaction generalization is “the norm” in most systems, allowing alien species to infiltrate recipient communities. We identify traits that influence invasiveness (e.g., selfing capacity in plants, animal behavioral traits) or invisibility (e.g., partner choice in mycorrhizas/rhizobia) through mutualistic interactions. Mutualistic disruptions due to invasions are pervasive, and subsequent cascading effects are also widespread. Ecological networks provide a useful framework for predicting tipping points for community collapse in response to invasions and other synergistic drivers of global change.
- RESEARCH: Richardson D