Invasions cause biodiversity loss and community simplification in vertebrate food webs

Núria Galiana, Miguel Lurgi, José M. Montoya, Bernat C. López

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Global change is increasing the occurrence of perturbation events on natural communities, with biological invasions posing a major threat to ecosystem integrity and functioning worldwide. Most studies addressing biological invasions have focused on individual species or taxonomic groups to understand both, the factors determining invasion success and their effects on native species. A more holistic approach that considers multispecies communities and species' interactions can contribute to a better understanding of invasion effects on complex communities. Here we address biological invasions on species-rich food webs. We performed in silico experiments on empirical vertebrate food webs by introducing virtual species characterised by different ecological roles and belonging to different trophic groups. We varied a number of invasive species traits, including their diet breadth, the number of predators attacking them, and the bioenergetic thresholds below which invader and native species become extinct. We found that simpler food webs were more vulnerable to invasions, and that relatively less connected mammals were the most successful invaders. Invasions altered food web structure by decreasing species richness and the number of links per species, with most extinctions affecting poorly connected birds. Our food web approach allows identifying the combinations of trophic factors that facilitate or prevent biological invasions, and it provides testable predictions on the effects of invasions on the structure and dynamics of multitrophic communities. © 2014 The Authors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)721-728
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


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