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Invasive plant species are typically thought to pose a large threat to native biodiversity, and local-scale studies typically confirm this view. However, plant invaders rarely cause regional extirpations or global extinctions, causing some to suggest that invasive species' influence on native biodiversity may not be so dire. We aim to synthesize the seemingly conflicting literature in plant invasion biology by evaluating the effects of invasive plant species across spatial scales.


We first conducted a meta-analysis on the effects of invasive plants on the species richness of invaded communities across a range of spatial extents. We then discuss studies that consider the role of invasive plants on regional spatial scales for which such meta-analyses are not possible. Finally, we develop a conceptual framework to synthesize the influence of invasive species across spatial scales by explicitly recognizing how invasive species alter species-occupancy distributions.


We found a negative relationship between the spatial extent of the study and the effect size of invasive plants on species richness. Our simulation models suggest that this result can occur if invaders, either proportionately or disproportionately, reduce the occupancy of common species to a greater degree than rare species.


Future studies should consider the influence of invaders on the abundance and occupancy-level changes in native species to inform how invasive plants will influence native species richness relationships across spatial scales. This approach will allow greater predictive ability for forecasting changes in biodiversity in the face of anthropogenic biological invasions and will inform invasive species management and restoration.


Copyright © 2012 by Botanical Society of America, Inc. Published in American Journal of Botany 98(3):539-548 (2011) DOI: 10.3732/ajb.1000402

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Powell_AppS1.doc (365 kB)
Additional analyses for meta-analysis, including relationships with effect size Hedges' d, uninvaded plot species richness, invader growth form, and publication bias

PowellAppS2.xls (103 kB)
Data set for meta-analysis of invasive species effects

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