Differing Consequences of Removing Ecosystem-Modifying Invaders: Significance of Impact and Community Context to Restoration Potential

  • Sally D. Hacker
  • Megan N. Dethier
Part of the Ecological Studies book series (ECOLSTUD, volume 204)

In recent years there has been a strong focus on the colonization of invasive species and their impacts on native and nonindigenous species (Parker et al. 1999; Ruiz et al. 1999; Simberloff and Von Holle 1999; Davis and Thompson 2000; Kolar and Lodge 2001; Grosholz 2002). Invasive species of particular concern, known as ecosystem modifiers or “engineers” (see Jones et al. 1994), are those that cause community and ecosystem level effects by creating, modifying, or maintaining physical habitat (Vitousek 1990; Crooks 2002; Grosholz 2002; Chap. 16, Crooks). These effects may alter processes such as nutrient cycling (e.g., Vitousek et al. 1987), disturbance regime (e.g., Mack and D'Antonio 1998), species interactions (e.g., Callaway and Aschehoug 2000), or structural and physical characteristics of the community itself (e.g., Crooks 1998). A recent review by Crooks (2002) illustrates the complex ways invasive ecosystem modifiers can transform communities, resulting in both positive and negative effects for other species. It is clear that these invaders can have extraordinary influence on community structure because they alter ecological processes in multiple ways and they often create positive feedbacks that benefit their continued expansion and impact (Cuddington and Hastings 2004).

Much less is known about the consequences of removing invasive species, especially ecosystem modifiers (Hobbs and Humphries 1995; Myers et al. 2000a; Zavalata et al. 2001). Invasive species removal can have positive effects for some communities, with restoration occurring after removal (Fig. 1a) (Myers et al. 2000a). However, in many cases, the results have been mixed with unexpected and widespread impacts on natural communities (Zavalata et al. 2001; D'Antonio and Meyerson 2002). For example, removal has been shown to increase invasion by other species (North et al. 1994), enhance predation of native species via hyperpredation (Courchamp et al. 1999), and depress population sizes of endangered species (Van Riel et al. 2000; Myers et al. 2000b). A few conceptual models have used idealized food webs to understand the consequences of removing invasive predators, herbivores, or plants (Zavalata et al. 2001; Courchamp et al. 1999, 2000). Some models predict that removing certain top predators can have counterintuitive consequences, indirectly leading to the decline of endemic prey. In addition, especially in the case of biocontrol, the removal process may lead to indirect detrimental effects (e.g., Louda et al. 1997; Callaway et al. 1999; but see Gratton and Denno 2005).


Salt Marsh Alternative Community Nonindigenous Species Salinity Marsh Invasional Meltdown 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sally D. Hacker
    • 1
  • Megan N. Dethier
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Zoology, 3029 Cordley HallOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA
  2. 2.Friday Harbor LaboratoriesUniversity of WashingtonFriday HarborUSA

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