Biological invasions as disruptors of plant reproductive mutualisms

20 April 2007

Invasive alien species affect the composition and functioning of invaded ecosystems in many ways, altering ecological interactions that have arisen over evolutionary timescales. Specifically, disruptions to pollination and seed-dispersal mutualistic interactions are often documented, although the profound implications of such impacts are not widely recognized. Such disruptions can occur via the introduction of alien pollinators, seed dispersers, herbivores, predators or plants, and we define here the many potential outcomes of each situation. The frequency and circumstances under which each category of mechanisms operates are also poorly known. Most evidence is from population-level studies, and the implications for global biodiversity are difficult to predict. Further insights are needed on the degree of resilience in interaction networks, but the preliminary picture suggests that invasive species frequently cause profound disruptions to plant reproductive mutualisms.