Conceptual figure of the formation and stability of novel mutualisms by niche and neutral processes at different stages of invasion. The x-axis represents three general stages of a biological invasion as necessary for mechanistic purposes, despite substantial debate in the literature about how invasion stages should be delineated. The y-axis represents the formation of novel mutualisms and the dotted line represents the shifting relative abundance of the non-native species. Red areas represent limitation of novel mutualism formation by the process described; green areas represent enhancement or reinforcement by the process described. Hashed vertical lines represent filters: the mutualism formation filter may be imposed by functional traits in the non-native organism or by niche traits preventing mutualism formation. Once the mutualism has formed and the species has spread, mutualism specialization filters may be imposed by strong selection for certain mutualistic traits; increased specialization may impact mutualism stability.

  Part of: Aslan CE, Sikes BA, Gedan KB (2015) Research on mutualisms between native and non-native partners can contribute critical ecological insights. NeoBiota 26: 39-54.