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Invasive Plants Have Scale-Dependent Effects on Diversity by Altering Species-Area Relationships

Science  18 Jan 2013:
Vol. 339, Issue 6117, pp. 316-318
DOI: 10.1126/science.1226817

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Abstract

Although invasive plant species often reduce diversity, they rarely cause plant extinctions. We surveyed paired invaded and uninvaded plant communities from three biomes. We reconcile the discrepancy in diversity loss from invaders by showing that invaded communities have lower local richness but steeper species accumulation with area than that of uninvaded communities, leading to proportionately fewer species loss at broader spatial scales. We show that invaders drive scale-dependent biodiversity loss through strong neutral sampling effects on the number of individuals in a community. We also show that nonneutral species extirpations are due to a proportionately larger effect of invaders on common species, suggesting that rare species are buffered against extinction. Our study provides a synthetic perspective on the threat of invasions to biodiversity loss across spatial scales.

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