The more you introduce the more you get: the role of colonization pressure and propagule pressure in invasion ecology

JL Lockwood, Phillip Cassey, TM Blackburn

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorial

359 Citations (Scopus)


Aim We argue that 'propagule pressure', a key term in invasion biology, has been attributed at least three distinct definitions (with usage of a related term causing additional confusion). All of the definitions refer to fundamental concepts within the invasion process, with the result that the distinct importance of these different concepts has been at best diluted, and at worst lost. Location Global. Methods We reviewed pertinent literature on propagule pressure to resolve confusion about different uses of the term 'propagule pressure' and we introduced a new term for one variant, colonization pressure. We conducted a computer simulation whereby the introduction of species is represented as a simple sampling process to elucidate the relationship between propagule and colonization pressure. Results We defined colonization pressure as the number of species introduced or released to a single location, some of which will go on to establish a self-sustaining population and some of which will not. We subsequently argued that colonization pressure should serve as a null hypothesis for understanding temporal or spatial differences in exotic species richness, as the more species that are introduced, the more we should expect to establish. Finally, using a simple simulation, we showed that propagule pressure is related to colonization pressure, but in a non-linear manner. Main conclusion We suggest that the nature of the relationship between propagule pressure and colonization pressure, as well as the efficacy of various proxy measures of each, require more detailed exploration if invasion ecology is to continue to develop into a more predictive science.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)904-910
Number of pages7
JournalDiversity and Distributions
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2009


  • Biological invasions
  • null models
  • propagule pressure
  • colonization


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