Borer, Elizabeth T.; Hosseini, Parviez R.; Seabloom, Eric W.; Dobson, Andrew P. 2007. Pathogen-induced reversal of native dominance in a grassland community. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Vol: 104(13). Pages 5473-5478. (Abstract) (Online version)
Disease may play a critical role in invasions by nonnative plants and animals that currently threaten global biodiversity. For example, a generalist viral pathogen has been recently implicated in one of the most extensive plant invasions worldwide, the invasion and domination of California's perennial grasslands by exotic annual grasses. To date, disease has never been quantitatively assessed as a cause of this invasion. Using a model with field-estimated parameters, we demonstrate that pathogen presence was necessary to reverse competitive outcome and to allow exotic annual grass invasion and dominance. Although pathogen-induced reversal of a competitive hierarchy has been suggested as a mechanism of species invasion, here we quantitatively demonstrate the importance of this phenomenon by using field-derived parameters in a dynamical model. Pathogen-mediated reversals in competitive balance may be critically important for understanding past, and predicting future, invasions.