Food web structure and interaction strength pave the way for vulnerability to extinction

Journal of Theoretical Biology
Patrik KarlssonAnnie Jonsson


This paper focuses on how food web structure and interactions among species affects the vulnerability, due to environmental variability, to extinction of species at different positions in model food webs. Vulnerability is here not measured by a traditional extinction threshold but is instead inspired by the IUCN criteria for endangered species: an observed rapid decline in population abundance. Using model webs influenced by stochasticity with zero autocorrelation, we investigate the ecological determinants of species vulnerability, i.e. the trophic interactions between species and food web structure and how these interact with the risk of sudden drops in abundance of species. We find that (i) producers fulfil the criterion of vulnerable species more frequently than other species, (ii) food web structure is related to vulnerability, and (iii) the vulnerability of species is greater when involved in a strong trophic interaction than when not. We note that our result on the relationship between extinction risk and trophic position of species contradict previous suggestions and argue that the main reason for the discrepancy probably is due to the fact that we study the vulnerability to environmental stochasticity and not extinctio...Continue Reading


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Sep 9, 2017·Scientific Reports·Tomas Jonsson

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