While natural communities are assembled by both ecological and evolutionary processes, ecological assembly processes have been studied much more and are rarely compared with evolutionary assembly processes. We address these disparities here by comparing community food webs assembled by simulating introductions of species from regional pools of species and from speciation events. Compared to introductions of trophically dissimilar species assumed to be more typical of invasions, introducing species trophically similar to native species assumed to be more typical of sympatric or parapatric speciation events caused fewer extinctions and assembled more empirically realistic networks by introducing more persistent species with higher trophic generality, vulnerability, and enduring similarity to native species. Such events also increased niche overlap and the persistence of both native and introduced species. Contrary to much competition theory, these findings suggest that evolutionary and other processes that more tightly pack ecological niches contribute more to ecosystem structure and function than previously thought.
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