1. Biological invasions constitute a pervasive and growing threat to the biodiversity and functioning of freshwater ecosystems. Macrophytes are key primary producers and ecosystem engineers in freshwaters, meaning that alien macrophyte invasions have the capacity to alter the structure and function of recipient aquatic ecosystems profoundly. Although prevailing wisdom holds that alien macrophyte invasions tend to compromise freshwater ecosystem structure and function, the ecological impacts of alien macrophyte invasion have not been quantitatively reviewed to date. 2. Here we present a global meta-analysis of 202 cases from 53 research articles, exploring the impacts of alien macrophyte invasion on the abundance and diversity of three ubiquitous and ecologically important focal groups, which together comprise the bulk of non-microbial freshwater biodiversity: resident macrophytes, macroinvertebrates and fish. Our synthesis includes data from all continents except Antarctica and Asia, covering 25 alien macrophyte species, but reveals considerable taxonomic and geographical biases in knowledge. 3. Meta-analysis results reveal that invasion by alien macrophytes has an overall negative impact on taxonomic diversity of the three focal groups, but no consistent effect on abundance. At a finer resolution, we detect a strong negative effect of alien macrophyte invasion on resident macrophyte abundance and diversity, and a significant but smaller positive effect of submerged alien macrophyte invasion on macroinvertebrates. Effects on fish appear inconsistent. 4. Our findings emphasise the importance of context- and taxon-specific ecological research in informing appropriate and proportionate management of alien macrophyte invasions, since alien macrophyte impacts are not consistently negative. We also identify significant geographical and taxonomic limitations in existing studies, quantitative data being lacking for many alien taxa.



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Freshwater Biology



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School of Biological and Marine Sciences