Invasions of exotic species into new geographic areas sometimes occur naturally and without human agency. However, human actions have increased this trickle to a flood. Human-caused introductions may occur either accidentally as a consequence of human transport, or intentionally but illegally to serve some private purpose or legitimately to procure some hoped-for public benefit by bringing a pest under control, producing new agricultural products or providing novel recreational opportunities. Many introduced species are assimilated into communities without much obvious effect. However, some have been responsible for dramatic changes to native species and natural communities. For example, the accidental introduction of the brown tree snake Boiga irregularis into Guam, an island in the Pacific, has through nest predation reduced 10 endemic forest bird species to the point of extinction.
One of the major reasons for the world’s great biodiversity is the occurrence of centers of endemism so that similar habitats in different parts of the world are occupied by different groups of species that happen to have evolved there. If every species naturally had access to everywhere on the globe we might expect a relatively small number of successful species to become dominant in each biome. The extent to which this homogenization can happen naturally is restricted by the limited powers of dispersal of most species in the face of the physical barriers that exist to dispersal. By virtue of the transport opportunities offered by humans, these barriers have been breached by an ever-increasing number of exotic species. The effects of introductions have been to convert a hugely diverse range of local community compositions into something much more homogeneous.
It would be wrong, however, to conclude that introducing species to a region will inevitably cause a decline in species richness there. For example, there are numerous species of plants, invertebrates and vertebrates found in continental Europe but absent from the British Isles (many because they have so far failed to recolonize after the last glaciations) Their introduction would be likely to augment British biodiversity The significant detrimental effect noted above arises where aggressive species proved a novel challenge to endemic biotas ill-equipped to deal with them.
How is homogenization prevented under natural conditions?