Dec 22, 2014

Real-world Interaction Networks Buffer Impact of Small Evolutionary Shifts On Biodiversity

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Gabriel E LeventhalRoger D Kouyos


Biodiversity maintenance and community evolution depend on the species interaction network. The “diversity-stability debate” has revealed that the complex interaction structure within real-world ecosystems determines how ecological communities respond to environmental changes, but can have opposite effects depending on the community type. Here we quantify the influence of shifts on community diversity and stability at both the species level and the community level. We use interaction networks from 19 real-world mutualistic communities and simulate shifts to antagonism. We demonstrate that both the placement of the shifting species in the community, as well as the structure of the interaction network as a whole contribute to stability and diversity maintenance under shifts. Our results suggest that the interaction structure of natural communities generally enhances community robustness against small ecological and evolutionary changes, but exacerbates the consequences of large changes.

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