Propagule size and dispersal costs mediate establishment success of an invasive species

Authors: Rolanda Lange and Dustin J Marshall

Published in: Ecology, volume 97, issue 3 (March 2016)


Bio-invasions depend on the number and frequency of invaders arriving in new habitats. Yet, as is often the case, it is not only quantity that counts, but also quality.

The process of dispersal can change disperser quality and establishment success. Invasions are a form of extra-range dispersal, so that invaders often experience changes in quality through dispersal.

To study effects of dispersal on invader quality, and its interactions with quantity on invasion success, we manipulated both in a field experiment using an invasive marine invertebrate.

Establishment success increased with the number of individuals arriving in a new habitat. Prolonged larval durations – our manipulation of prolonged dispersal – decreased individual quality and establishment success. Groups of invaders with prolonged larval durations contributed only a third of the offspring relative to invaders that settled immediately.

We also found an interaction between the quality and quantity of invaders on individual growth: only within high-quality cohorts did individuals experience density-dependent effects on growth.

Our findings highlight that dispersal not only affects the quantity of invaders arriving in a new habitat but also their quality, and both mediate establishment success.


Lange R , Marshall DJ (2016) Propagule size and dispersal costs mediate establishment success of an invasive species. Ecology, 97(3), 2016, pp. 569–575
DOI: 10.1890/15-1573 PDF 238 KB