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Fully-integrated invaders

In the eyes of a biologist, invasive species are the bad guys. As a general rule, changing a native habitat will reduce its biological diversity. Exotic plants and animals that successfully establish themselves are usually generalists, which allow them to overthrow the locals and generate more homogeneous communities, in terms of ecological roles. Usually, but not always, according to a study conducted in the Azores, an archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, by an international group including ecologist Mário Almeida-Neto from the Federal University of Goiás (PLOS One, May 29, 2015). After analyzing invertebrates from four Azorean islands (Flores, Faial, Terceira, and Santa Maria), in environments with varying degrees of human disturbance, the researchers observed that exotic fauna form heterogeneous assemblages of species that maintain the existing levels of ecological complexity. In other words, that rule may not be so general after all.