Linking topological structure and dynamics in ecological networks.
ABSTRACT Interaction networks are basic descriptions of ecological communities and are at the core of community dynamics models. Knowledge of their structure should enable us to understand dynamical properties of ecological communities. However, the relationships between dynamical properties of communities and qualitative descriptors of network structure remain unclear. To improve our understanding of such relationships, we develop a framework based on the concept of strongly connected components, which are key structural components of networks necessary to explain stability properties such as persistence and robustness. We illustrate this framework for the analysis of qualitative empirical food webs and plant-plant interaction networks. Both types of networks exhibit high persistence (on average, 99% and 80% of species, respectively, are expected to persist) and robustness (only 0.2% and 2% of species are expected to disappear following the extinction of a species). Each of the networks is structured as a large group of interconnected species accompanied by much smaller groups that most often consist of a single species. This low-modularity configuration can be explained by a negative modularity-stability relationship. Our results suggest that ecological communities are not typically structured in multispecies compartments and that compartmentalization decreases robustness.
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ABSTRACT: The main theories of biodiversity either neglect species interactions or assume that species interact randomly with each other. However, recent empirical work has revealed that ecological networks are highly structured, and the lack of a theory that takes into account the structure of interactions precludes further assessment of the implications of such network patterns for biodiversity. Here we use a combination of analytical and empirical approaches to quantify the influence of network architecture on the number of coexisting species. As a case study we consider mutualistic networks between plants and their animal pollinators or seed dispersers. These networks have been found to be highly nested, with the more specialist species interacting only with proper subsets of the species that interact with the more generalist. We show that nestedness reduces effective interspecific competition and enhances the number of coexisting species. Furthermore, we show that a nested network will naturally emerge if new species are more likely to enter the community where they have minimal competitive load. Nested networks seem to occur in many biological and social contexts, suggesting that our results are relevant in a wide range of fields.Nature 05/2009; 458(7241):1018-20. · 38.60 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: The interactions between species are unlikely to be randomly arranged, and there is increasing evidence that most interactions occur within small species sub-groups, or compartments, that do not strongly interact with one another. We examine whether arranging the interactions of a competitive system into compartments influences the system properties of linear stability, feasibility, reactivity, and biomass stability, thereby altering the likelihood of species persistence. Model Lotka-Volterra systems of diffuse competition were analysed with interactions arranged randomly and in compartments. It was found, using a variety of dynamical measures, that arranging interactions into compartments enhances the likelihood of species persistence. Since many natural competitive systems appear to have interactions arranged within compartments, this may be an outcome of the positive attributes that this form of organization offers.Journal of Theoretical Biology 04/2004; 227(2):277-82. · 2.35 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: A mathematical model is developed for the dynamics of seed-dispersed tree species in a region of forest patches or islands. The relevant variables are the population numbers of individual species populations on each patch. A model that considers only one tree species (of the many present) in a region of N distinct patches is formally analogous to a model of an N-species mutualistic community. Using the theory of M-matrices, which has been successfully applied to mutualistic communities, criteria for persistence and stability of the species are derived. The model is then extended to a community of L species that interact competitively and mutualistically in an N-island region. The possibilities of obtaining numerical parameters for the models are discussed.Theoretical Population Biology 11/1979; 16(2):107-25. · 1.24 Impact Factor