Phylogenetically poor plant communities receive more alien species, which more easily coexist with natives

P. Gerhold, M. Pärtel, O. Tackenberg, S.M. Hennekens, I. Bartish, J.H.J. Schaminee, A.J.F. Fergus, W.A. Ozinga, A. Prinzing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)


Alien species can be a major threat to ecological communities, but we do not know why some community types allow the entry of many more alien species than do others. Here, for the first time, we suggest that evolutionary diversity inherent to the constituent species of a community may determine its present receptiveness to alien species. Using recent large databases from observational studies, we find robust evidence that assemblage of plant community types from few phylogenetic lineages (in plots without aliens) corresponds to higher receptiveness to aliens. Establishment of aliens in phylogenetically poor communities corresponds to increased phylogenetic dispersion of recipient communities and to coexistence with rather than replacement of natives. This coexistence between natives and distantly related aliens in recipient communities of low phylogenetic dispersion may reflect patterns of trait assembly. In communities without aliens, low phylogenetic dispersion corresponds to increased dispersion of most traits, and establishment of aliens corresponds to increased trait concentration. We conclude that if quantified across the tree of life, high biodiversity correlates with decreasing receptiveness to aliens. Low phylogenetic biodiversity, in contrast, facilitates coexistence between natives and aliens even if they share similar trait states.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)668-680
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • ecological communities
  • biological invasions
  • indicator values
  • diversity
  • conservatism
  • invasibility
  • saturation
  • gradients
  • richness
  • lineages

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