Emergence of structural and dynamical properties of ecological mutualistic networks

Samir SuweisAmos Maritan


Mutualistic networks are formed when the interactions between two classes of species are mutually beneficial. They are important examples of cooperation shaped by evolution. Mutualism between animals and plants has a key role in the organization of ecological communities. Such networks in ecology have generally evolved a nested architecture independent of species composition and latitude; specialist species, with only few mutualistic links, tend to interact with a proper subset of the many mutualistic partners of any of the generalist species. Despite sustained efforts to explain observed network structure on the basis of community-level stability or persistence, such correlative studies have reached minimal consensus. Here we show that nested interaction networks could emerge as a consequence of an optimization principle aimed at maximizing the species abundance in mutualistic communities. Using analytical and numerical approaches, we show that because of the mutualistic interactions, an increase in abundance of a given species results in a corresponding increase in the total number of individuals in the community, and also an increase in the nestedness of the interaction matrix. Indeed, the species abundances and the nestedne...Continue Reading


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