Darwin proposed two seemingly contradictory hypotheses regarding factors influencing the outcome of biological invasions. He initially posited that nonnative species closely related to native species would be more likely to successfully establish, because they might share adaptations to the local environment (preadaptation hypothesis). However, based on observations that the majority of naturalized plant species in the United States belonged to nonnative genera, he concluded that the lack of competitive exclusion would facilitate the establishment of alien invaders phylogenetically distinct from the native flora (competition-relatedness hypothesis). To date, no consensus has been reached regarding these opposing hypotheses. Here, following Darwin, we use the flora of the United States to examine patterns of taxonomic and phylogenetic relatedness between native and nonnative taxa across thousands of nested locations ranging in size and extent, from local to regional scales. We find that the probability of observing the signature of environmental filtering over that of competition increases with spatial scale. Further, native and nonnative species tended to be less related in warm, humid environments. Our work provides an empirical assessment of the role of observation scale and climate in biological invasions and demonstrates that Darwin's two opposing hypotheses need not be mutually exclusive.
Keywords: Darwin’s naturalization hypothesis; biological invasions; competition; environmental filtering; spatial resolution.
Conflict of interest statement
The authors declare no competing interest.
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