The ecological and evolutionary implications of merging different types of networks


  • Colin Fontaine,

    Corresponding author
    1. Département Ecologie et Gestion de la Biodiversité, Laboratoire Conservation des Espèces, Restauration et Suivi des Populations, UMR 7204 CNRS-MNHN, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, 61 rue Buffon, 75005 Paris, France
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Paulo R. Guimarães Jr,

    1. Departamento de Ecologia, I.B., Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo, SP 05508-900, Brazil
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Sonia Kéfi,

    1. Institut des Sciences de l’Evolution – CNRS UMR 5554, Bat 22, second floor, Université de Montpellier II – CC 065, 34095 Montpellier Cedex 05, France
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Nicolas Loeuille,

    1. Laboratoire Ecologie & Evolution, UMR 7625, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, CNRS, 7 quai St Bernard, 75005 Paris, France
    2. INRA, USC 2031, Ecologie des populations et des communautés, 75005 Paris, France
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Jane Memmott,

    1. School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 1UG, UK
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Wim H. van der Putten,

    1. Department of Terrestrial Ecology, Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), P.O.Box 50, 6700 AB, Wageningen, The Netherlands
    2. Laboratory of Nematology, Wageningen University, PO Box 8123, 6700 ES, Wageningen, The Netherlands
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Frank J. F. van Veen,

    1. Centre for Ecology & Conservation, School of Biosciences, University of Exeter, Penryn, Cornwall, UK
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Elisa Thébault

    1. CNRS, UMR 7618, Biogéochimie et écologie des milieux continentaux, 46 rue d’Ulm, 75005 Paris, France
    Search for more papers by this author


Ecology Letters (2011) 14: 1170–1181


Interactions among species drive the ecological and evolutionary processes in ecological communities. These interactions are effectively key components of biodiversity. Studies that use a network approach to study the structure and dynamics of communities of interacting species have revealed many patterns and associated processes. Historically these studies were restricted to trophic interactions, although network approaches are now used to study a wide range of interactions, including for example the reproductive mutualisms. However, each interaction type remains studied largely in isolation from others. Merging the various interaction types within a single integrative framework is necessary if we want to further our understanding of the ecological and evolutionary dynamics of communities. Dividing the networks up is a methodological convenience as in the field the networks occur together in space and time and will be linked by shared species. Herein, we outline a conceptual framework for studying networks composed of more than one type of interaction, highlighting key questions and research areas that would benefit from their study.