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An understanding of the demographic processes contributing to invasions would improve our mechanistic understanding of the invasion process and improve the efficiency of prevention and control efforts. However, field comparisons of the demography of invasive and noninvasive species have not previously been conducted. We compared the in situ demography of 17 introduced plant species in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, to contrast the demographic patterns of invasive species with their less invasive relatives across a broad sample of angiosperms. Using herbarium records to estimate spread rates, we found higher maximum spread rates in the landscape for species classified a priori as invasive than for noninvasive introduced species, suggesting that expert classifications are an accurate reflection of invasion rate. Across 17 species, projected population growth was not significantly greater in invasive than in noninvasive introduced species. Among five taxonomic pairs of close relatives, however, four of the invasive species had higher projected population growth rates compared with their noninvasive relative. A Life Table Response Experiment suggested that the greater projected population growth rate of some invasive species relative to their noninvasive relatives was primarily a result of sexual reproduction. The greater sexual reproduction of invasive species is consistent with invaders having a life history strategy more reliant on fecundity than survival and is consistent with a large role of propagule pressure in invasion. Sexual reproduction is a key demographic correlate of invasiveness, suggesting that local processes influencing sexual reproduction, such as enemy escape, might be of general importance. However, the weak correlation of projected population growth with spread rates in the landscape suggests that regional processes, such as dispersal, may be equally important in determining invasion rate.


Copyright by the Ecological Society of America. Ecology 2013 94(5):995-1004 DOI: 10.1890/12-1310.1

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