Increasing functional modularity with residence time in the co-distribution of native and introduced vascular plants
Publication of this article was funded by the Stellenbosch University Open Access Fund.
The original publication is available at http://www.nature.com/ncomms/index.html
Species gain membership of regional assemblages by passing through multiple ecological and environmental filters. To capture the potential trajectory of structural changes in regional meta-communities driven by biological invasions, one can categorize species pools into assemblages of different residence times. Older assemblages, having passed through more environmental filters, should become more functionally ordered and structured. Here we calculate the level of compartmentalization (modularity) for three different-aged assemblages (neophytes, introduced after 1500 AD; archaeophytes, introduced before 1500 AD, and natives), including 2,054 species of vascular plants in 302 reserves in central Europe. Older assemblages are more compartmentalized than younger ones, with species composition, phylogenetic structure and habitat characteristics of the modules becoming increasingly distinctive. This sheds light on two mechanisms of how alien species are functionally incorporated into regional species pools: the settling-down hypothesis of diminishing stochasticity with residence time, and the niche-mosaic hypothesis of inlaid neutral modules in regional meta-communities.